Guerrillas Keep Up Pressure in Iraq

Alistair Lyon

Guerrillas have kept up attacks on USA forces in Iraq, after an Oil Ministry source acknowledged that this week’s pipeline explosion was the most destructive carried out by saboteurs to date, providing a sobering backdrop to an international donors’ conference on Iraq that starts in Madrid on Thursday.

Jubilant locals celebrate as one of the occupier's 'Humvees

Jubilant locals celebrate as one of the occupier’s ‘Humvees” burns after it was destroyed by Iraqi resistance on Wednesday.

A roadside bomb wrecked a USA military vehicle on Wednesday in the flashpoint town of Falluja, west of Baghdad, but the military could not immediately say if there had been American casualties. Reuters television footage showed a “Humvee” lying in a ditch off a main road outside the restive Sunni Muslim town. Local people were throwing petrol onto the blazing vehicle and shouting “Allahu Akbar (God is great)”.

Earlier, an improvised bomb exploded in a road tunnel in central Baghdad at dawn, hitting a “Humvee”, wounding two USA soldiers. Guerrillas often use roadside bombs against USA forces, as well as sabotage to try to cripple a drive to resuscitate the oil industry.

An Oil Ministry source said Iraq aimed to resume exports from its crude oil pipeline to Turkey by early November, but sabotage threatened to undermine Baghdad’s best efforts. “The plan is to resume Kirkuk exports in the first week of November after storing five million barrels of oil in Turkey,” the source said. “But these are just plans. I don’t think the pipeline can function in the foreseeable future because the sabotage will just continue.”

Postwar sabotage has prevented Iraq from shipping oil through its northern pipeline, which carried about 800,000 bpd before the war that toppled President Saddam Hussein in April. The Oil Ministry source said that Tuesday’s sabotage blast, which hit a cluster of four pipelines, just south of Baiji, Iraq’s biggest oil refinery, was the most worrying attack so far.

“This was a terrible blast. It hit four pipelines and it was the first time we actually witnessed parts of a pipeline being blown up completely,” he said. “Normally there are dents, leaks and damage. But this blew up parts of the pipeline, which means repairs will take longer.” The blast tore through two lines to Baghdad’s vital Daura refinery, which was already taking diverted crude oil from the south. “The Daura refinery is now starved of oil,” the source said. “It’s getting about 30 percent of its usual supplies.”

Published Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003 - 07:50am GMT

Reuters News Agency

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Alistair Lyon

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