Iraqi forces have added an additional layer of fortification around oilfields and facilities in areas liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), officials told Diyaruna.
The number of ISIS attacks has been on the rise, especially those targeting the Allas and Ajil oilfields in the northern province of Salaheddine.
Security forces have thwarted at least six attacks targeting these two fields, most recently on February 13th, Energy Police Directorate media director Capt. Ali al-Maliki told Diyaruna.
In that incident, he said, "a terrorist cell comprised of six members tried to approach the defence lines around the Allas field from the Hamreen hills".
"Thermal surveillance cameras were able to detect the movements of these elements from several kilometres away, and guards immediately opened fire, forcing them to flee and hide in the valleys," al-Maliki said.
"This is the latest terrorist attack [attempt] against oilfields in Salaheddine province, where terrorists take advantage of the fact that these fields are located in rugged terrain," he said.
"The cameras that detected the terrorists are one of several preventive measures that have been recently added to reinforce oilfields and facilities in areas where there still are security operations targeting ISIS," he said.
Increased security measures
In addition to these cameras, al-Maliki said, "there are now more security, army and police personnel protecting energy facilities", including an emergency regiment that was deployed to secure the Allas and Ajil oilfields.
Security forces are well-prepared for any attack, he said, and are equipped with weapons, night vision goggles and surveillance equipment.
They have been conducting intensified patrols and air reconnaissance missions in the mountains and desert areas surrounding the oilfields, he added.
"ISIS elements are unable to steal and smuggle crude oil from oilfields or oil pipelines that connect to refineries," al-Maliki said.
Through repeated attacks on oil facilities, he explained, extremist elements are hoping "to open security gaps" that would allow them to access and exploit this resource in order to fund their criminal activities.
In Ninawa, where there is a significant amount of oil production, including al-Qayyarah and Najmah, security and tribal forces are working together to maintain security.
"The tribes and the local population are working with their brothers, the security forces, to protect the oilfields," said al-Qayyarah district director Saleh al-Jubouri.
There are now 150 police officers guarding the facilities," he told Diyaruna. "There are additional forces from the mobile units as well as the army and police, all of whom are fully securing oil facilities in al-Qayyarah."
At one point, he said, these facilities had been subjected to near daily attacks.
"But since ISIS was expelled and Mosul was liberated (in mid-2017), we have yet to record a security breach or terrorist attack," he said.
Reconstruction and rehabilitation
Security operations "run parallel to reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts", al-Jubouri said, noting that Iraqi and international technical teams have managed to repair most of the 22 oilfields that ISIS had set on fire.
"It has become difficult for ISIS elements to take control of even a small part of an oilfield," oil expert Hamza al-Jawahiri told Diyaruna.
This is because of the heavy deployment of security forces and their high level of preparedness, in addition to technical support, he said.
"Through complete control, all attacks launched by militants on these locations are failing," al-Jawahiri said. "Each time, the terrorists' hopes are dashed as they try to find a significant source of revenue."
But there is still a threat to workers, production and investment from "missiles that are launched from remote areas that are close to the oilfields", he said.
"This requires intensive and ongoing security campaigns that focus on emptying these areas of remaining terrorists so as to continue reconstruction of all oil facilities that were damaged," al-Jawahiri said.