Iraq is mobilising a 27,000 strong army of security personnel to protect its oil and energy facilities from attacks by Islamic State insurgents.

Adel Abdel Mahdi, Iraq’s oil minister, gave details of the new force at the end of the meetings of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

The onslaught of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has raised concern’s that Baghdad’s vast oil fields and complex network of refineries and pipelines are vulnerable to attack and sabotage.

Mr Abdel Mahdi said that the security force, which essentially amounts to an oil army, would be drawn from an existing energy police corp that is under control of the country’s Interior Ministry. He added that meetings will take place in the coming weeks to finalise the structure of the force, which will receive additional training and equipment.

“Their mission is to secure all oil and electricity facilities,” said Mr Abdel Mahdi.

Although Iraq has asserted that its oil facilities are safe and secure from Isil its pipelines were frequently attacked by insurgents following the US occupation, which followed the 2003 invasion.

Iraq is now producing close 4 million b/d of oil and now ranks as the second largest producer in Opec after Saudi Arabia. British oil majors Royal Dutch Shell and BP are both active in Iraq operating some of the country’s largest fields in the Shia-Muslim dominated South.

Iraqi troops have been fighting Isil forces dug in around the major Baiji oil refinery just over 100 miles North of Baghdad.

Source: The Telegraph