BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Gunmen attacked a contracting company working in the huge Akkas gasfield in Iraq's western desert on Monday, killing three local workers and kidnapping at least two more, local government officials said.
Akkas, operated by Korea Gas Company in Anbar province near the Syrian border, is not yet producing gas. But the attack is another indication of increased insurgent activity near the frontier as Syria's war spills into Iraq.
"A group of gunmen in vehicles attacked the headquarters of a local company hired by Kogas to do work in the field," said the mayor of al Qaim town, Farhan Ftaikhan. "They killed an engineer and two workers and kidnapped two more. Before they left they set fire to vehicles and offices."
No group claimed responsibility for the late-night attack, but security officials say the local wing of al Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq, is regaining ground in the remote hills, caves and villages along the Syrian border.
Al Qaeda in Iraq is linked to Sunni Islamists fighting in neighbouring Syria and has been invigorated by arms, fighters and support flowing to rebels battling against President Bashar al-Assad across the border.
Iraq, which holds the world's 10th largest gas reserves, has said the priority for the Akkas field would be domestic consumption once it starts production.
The OPEC member signed a final deal for the field, which has reserves of 5.6 trillion cubic feet, in October 2011 after months of delays because of disagreements between Baghdad and provincial officials in Anbar over terms.
(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad and Kamal Naama in Ramadi; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Rosalind Russell)