The largest network for smuggling oil byproducts in the province of Basra in southern Iraq has been shut down with the arrest of all 19 members of the crime ring.
Vehicles such as trucks and tanks used for smuggling by the group were also seized.
The ring was captured in Khor Al-Zubair city in Basra, a security source with knowledge of the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Smuggling oil is supported and run by prominent Iraqi figures, partisan groups and militias and has been ongoing for years, the source said.
More dangerously, the source pointed out that arrested smugglers are being set free shortly after their capture as a result of pressure exerted by influential figures.
He fears that the 19-member ring will soon be released in the same fashion.
“There is a large market exploiting territorial waters to smuggle various goods, especially oil and drugs, waters which the state cannot control due to its limited capabilities and lack of adequate patrol boats,” the source added.
More so, the source mentioned that the smugglers are receiving security coverage from powerful officials.
“Smugglers use special gauges issued by the Ministry of Oil on oil tanks to slip by checkpoints without any trouble—tanks aren’t being inspected because they are presenting approvals issued by official bodies,” they explained.
On the other hand, the series of assassinations continues to shake up Basra province.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Basra Mahdi al-Tamimi confirmed the killing of two women on Friday evening, one of which runs a beauty salon.
Another young man, with no history of political activities or protesting, was also killed.
Protests broke out after a number of people were sickened by polluted water in Basra. Protests in Basra province first started in July, but little to nothing has been done to provide residents with fresh water.
At least four were killed, and two were wounded in the recent violence.