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Gunmen slay senior oil official in northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk

Saad al-Karbalaie was the director of operations for Iraq's state-run North Oil Company.

By Fred Lambert
Gunmen slay senior oil official in northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk
Gunmen killed a senior official in a state-run oil firm in Kirkuk, Iraq, on Sunday, according to police. Image from Google Maps

KIRKUK, Iraq, June 28 (UPI) -- Gunmen shot to death a senior official in a state-run oil company in northern Iraq on Sunday, according to police.

Saad al-Karbalaie was the director of operations for the North Oil Company. Police say armed men killed Karbalaie after forcing him to stop his vehicle as he drove from his office in Kirkuk.

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No groups have claimed responsibility for the killing, but the Islamic State has been at war with Kurds in the region as well as Iraqi government forces for a year.

Since spilling over the Syrian border and taking large portions of ground in western and northern Iraq last summer, the Sunni extremist group has reportedly used seized oil assets to fund its operations.

IS forces have fought back-and-forth battles with pro-government forces to capture Iraq's largest oil refinery in Baiji for a year, in May reportedly taking portions of the facility. Earlier this month, the Iraqi government said it secured the city of Baiji, which lies on the road between Baghdad and IS-controlled Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

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Karbalaie's death comes the same day a series of blasts rocked various locations across Baghdad, killing seven people and injuring at least 19, according to Al Jazeera.

Iraq's oil ministry announced last week an increase in crude oil exports to unprecedented levels for the month of May, with southern ports in Basra exporting 83 million barrels of crude and the Kirkuk oil fields exporting 14 million barrels. With an average selling price of $55 per barrel, Iraq reportedly netted more than $5 billion in oil revenues during that time.

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