Attacks on pipelines are part of plan to destroy Iraqi economy and environment, ministry says

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By Shaymaa Adel

Azzaman, April 29, 2014

There has been a surge in attacks targeting oil pipelines in a bid to disrupt oil exports and inflict maximum harm on Iraqi economy and the environment, said Oil Ministry spokesperson Isam Jihad.

Jihad said the attacks cost the treasury billions of dollars in lost oil exports, repairs and damage to the environment.

He said the attacks were on the rise and lack of security was making it difficult for repair teams to execute their tasks properly

The pipes are blown up by explosive charges, or are directly targeting by mortar shells, said Jihad.

He said it may take from 24 hours to more than a week and sometimes even longer for the teams to repair damage.

To be able to repair damage to pipelines, which are spread across the country, as quickly as possible, the Ministry of Oil has established a special directorate with branches in different provinces to meet the challenge.

But it is not always easy to cope with attacks increasing and long sections of pipelines lying within areas that are either loosely controlled by the government or totally outside its jurisdiction.

Parts of  the area north of Baghdad and in the vicinity of the provinces of Nineveh and Salahudeen, which is a mesh of pipelines, is under the hegemony of the Iraq Jihadist group known as ISIS.

Amer al-Hassoun of the Environment Ministry said damage to environment and agricultural land was huge, particularly when repair teams fail to reach the area or it takes them long time to have the damage addressed.

Crude oil flows from the targeted pipelines and usually in huge quantities inflicting massive damage on agricultural land and environment, Hassoun said.

He said sometimes the saboteurs set the spilled oil on fire, making it extremely hard for repair teams to carry out their job properly.

 Fadhil al-Showaili, a senior security official in the Province of Baghdad, said the government has set up a special force whose job is primarily the protection of pipelines.

Showaili gave no figures on the force’s numbers but said it belonged to the Ministry of Interior.

However, he said, the force could not function at ease in some areas, where insurgents and ‘terrorists’ have the upper hand.

There no estimates of the cost that damage to pipelines inflicts on the Iraqi economy, which almost exclusively relies on oil export revenues.

But the pipeline carrying Iraqi crude exports to Turkish terminals has been the scene of repeated attacks recently, resulting in almost total loss of exports via Turkey for nearly three months.

The line used to carry up to 600,000 barrels of oil a day.