Iraq asks energy firm to resume work at retaken oil fields
BAGHDAD - Iraq's oil minister called Tuesday for Angolan energy firm Sonangol to resume work at fields south of Mosul where the Islamic State group had set wells alight, sparking months-long infernos.
Iraqi forces recaptured the Qayyarah and Najmah fields last year, but oil wells have burned long after ISIS was pushed back, blanketing areas for miles around in a haze of smoke.
Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi "called on Angolan company Sonangol to resume work in developing the Qayyarah and Najmah fields in Nineveh province," the oil ministry said in a statement.
Luaibi made the call during a meeting with Sonangol executive administrator Edson dos Santos, and requested that work be resumed at the two fields by the end of next month, the ministry said.
The statement said that "most of the wells set on fire by terrorist gangs" had been brought under control, but ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said that nine were still burning.
Sonangol made the winning bids in 2009 to develop Qayyarah and Najmah.
But ISIS overran the areas after launching a devastatingly effective offensive in 2014 that saw it seize swathes of territory north and west of Baghdad.
The jihadists have since been pushed back, but they set oil wells alight in a bid to sow destruction and provide cover from attacking aircraft before they withdrew.
Iraqi forces are now battling ISIS inside Mosul, the country's second city and the last in which the jihadists hold significant territory.
The Iraqi government relies on oil for the vast majority of its revenue, and has been hit hard by falling prices following years of mismanagement and corruption that squandered funds when prices were high.