Attack on oil pipelines cuts Iraq's oil exports

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The Independent Online

Saboteurs blasted a key pipeline today for the second time in as many days, halting all oil exports from Iraq, officials said. Gunmen killed the top security official of the state-run Northern Oil company as insurgents stepped up attacks on Iraq's infrastructure.

Saboteurs blasted a key pipeline today for the second time in as many days, halting all oil exports from Iraq, officials said. Gunmen killed the top security official of the state-run Northern Oil company as insurgents stepped up attacks on Iraq's infrastructure.

Today's attack north of the town of Faw crippled two already damaged pipelines, forcing a halt in all Iraqi oil exports southward through the Gulf, Southern Oil Company spokesman Samir Jassim said.

"Due to the damage inflicted on the two pipelines, the pumping of oil to the Basra oil terminal has completely stopped," Jassim said. "Exports have come to halt."

Exports were halted last month through the other avenue - the northern pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan, Turkey, after a bombing on May 25, Turkish officials said on condition of anonymity.

Two explosions on the southern pipeline occurred yesterday in the same area as the blast. It could take up to a week to repair the damage, Jassim said.

Another pipeline carrying oil to a domestic refinery was attacked last night near Dibis, some 45 kilometres west of Kirkuk, according to Mustafa Awad, an official in the Northern Oil Company.

That pipeline does not carry crude oil for export, however. The fire was extinguished.

The security officer for the Northern Oil Company was killed in an ambush today in a crowded public market in Kirkuk. The victim, Ghazi Talabani, was a relative of the leader of one of Iraq's main Kurdish parties, Jalal Talabani.

Reviving petroleum exports is the key to restoring Iraq's economy after decades of war, international sanctions and Saddam Hussein's tyranny. However, repeated attacks have slowed the process of returning Iraq, with the world's second largest petroleum reserves after Saudi Arabia, to the forefront of global energy markets.

Insurgents are targeting the infrastructure apparently to undermine confidence in the new government, which takes power June 30. On Monday, a car bomb killed 13 people in Baghdad, including three foreign engineers working to restore the electricity sector.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the coalition deputy operations chief, said another convoy of contractors was ambushed yesterday in Baghdad. Two people were killed and three were injured when shots were fired from a highway overpass, the US military said today.

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