Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the army to boost protection of the country’s pipelines and refineries from sabotage.
“Any breaches will cause problems at the Dora and Baiji refineries and the pipelines feeding the power stations,” Maliki said yesterday during a televised Cabinet meeting on the government’s performance during its first 100 days.
The armed forces took command from the police for protecting the Baiji refinery, north of Baghdad, about 15 days ago, said Lieutenant General Faruq al-Araji, director of the chief commander’s military office. Cameras have also been installed in various locations across the capital to help prevent attacks, he said.
Violence has intensified in Iraq amid a political deadlock before the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of the year. Attacks have targeted pipelines, refineries and the central bank. Iraq, home to the world’s fifth-biggest oil reserves, is struggling to boost energy production and exports after years of conflict, economic sanctions and sabotage.
Output at Baiji, which can process 250,000 barrels a day and is Iraq’s biggest refinery, was disrupted for several days after an attack on Feb. 26. A pipeline carrying Iraqi oil from the northern Kirkuk fields to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan was damaged by an explosion in March, knocking out as much as a quarter of crude exports for a few days.
The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline has been the target of attacks before by Kurdish rebels on the Turkish side. Attacks on the Iraqi side are more frequent as the pipeline runs through a region where al-Qaeda and other armed groups operate. Insurgents have targeted Iraq’s oil installations since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Militants yesterday raided a provincial government building and took hostages in the city of Baquba, north of Baghdad, leading to a clash with security forces that left nine people dead and 32 wounded, Hassan Al Sunaid, head of the Security and Defense Committee, told reporters in the capital.
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