KIRKUK, Iraq (Reuters) – Gunmen shot dead a senior employee of Iraq's state-run North Oil Company (NOC) on Monday, the third company official to be killed in the past four months, police & sources within the company said.
Deputy inspector-general Hassan Salim & three other employees were driving to their office in the northern oil city of Kirkuk when assailants in a speeding car sprayed their minibus with bullets.
Salim & another employee were killed instantly & the two other passengers were seriously wounded, police sources said.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the killings & police investigations have yet to uncover the perpetrator, according to a police officer in the investigating team.
The ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk has been under Kurdish control since June 2014, when Islamic State overran the north of the country & Iraqi security forces collapsed.
The number of bombings in the city has decreased since the Kurds took over, yet there has been a wave of assassinations, many of them targeting Arabs.
Kirkuk is subject to competing claims of Kurds, Arabs & Turkmen & has long been a flashpoint.
NOC's chief of operations, Saad al-Karbalaie, was killed in late June. Over a month later, his successor at the state-run firm chief engineer Saad Ali Hussain was moreover gunned down.Â
Two NOC officials who requested anonymity told Reuters that the deputy inspector-general was conducting multiple corruption probes inside the company.
"When you have an official running a corruption investigation getting killed, then it's a bloody message from parties that could obtain exposed to stop chasing them," one of the officials said.
"Until now we have lost three officials & more to come. North Oil Company is becoming more of a mafia courtyard rather than a state-run firm."
(Reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud; Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Michael Georgy & Tom Heneghan)