Kirkuk energy plant
Smoke rises after an attack at Bai Hassan oil station, northwest of Kirkuk, Iraq, on 31 July, 2016 REUTERS/Ako Rasheed

Islamic State (Isis) militants marched into two energy facilities in northern Iraq on Sunday (31 July) and killed at least five people. According to Reuters, the first attack took place at an AB2 gas compressor station, located about 15 km (10 miles) northwest of Kirkuk in Bajwan area, police Gen Sarhad Qader said. Four gunmen with hand grenades attacked the station leaving two guards in a serious condition. The militants then shot dead four workers in a control room.

Counter terrorism officials rushed to the scene, took control of the facility and pushed back the militants who fled after planting explosives charges.

The militants then allegedly went to the Bai Hassan oil station, some 25km further northwest, where they mounted a similar attack. One of them detonated his vest at a gate outside, so others could enter the facility. Once they got inside, two more men detonated explosive-laden vests, destroying an oil storage tank.

A fourth militant was later killed in clashes with security officials. Six policemen were wounded and an oil engineer was killed, security forces said.

The Bai Hassan oil station which had been producing 55,000 barrels of oil per day has been forced to suspend all activity following the attack. Kirkuk is a contested area in Iraq, which is claimed both by the central government and the Kurdish regional government.

Amaq news agency, linked to IS (Daesh) said in an online statement that IS fighters stormed the Bai Hassan oil facility, but made no mention of the previous attack in the statement. The jihadist group has often targeted oil facilities in the area with bombs, attacking oil wells at Khabbaz oilfield southwest of Kirkuk.

In 2014, they captured a third of Iraqi territory but have since then lost many areas to Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes. However, they still control Mosul, which is their de facto capital in Iraq.