Basra, Asharq Al-Awsat- A local official in Basra, southern Iraq, the country’s largest oil-producing city, confirmed intelligence reports indicating that the Al-Qaeda Organization in Iraq is planning to target Basra’s oil facilities in order to undermine Iraq’s infrastructure after the completion of the US withdrawal from Iraq.
Recent bombings at marketplaces in Basra killed and wounded tens of people, thereby causing fears about possible renewal of these attacks, especially after the withdrawal of the US combat forces.
Ali al-Maliki, president of the Security Committee of the Basra Governorate Council, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We have received information indicating that there is a plan to target a number of oil facilities.” He added: “The security agencies in the governorate are dealing with this information with extreme interest, and a new security plan has been laid down to properly protect these facilities.”
The official said: “The available information indicates that the Al-Qaeda Organization is working to undermine the Iraqi economy by targeting oil facilities. We have a new plan in place to counter these attacks. Most of the security agencies, including the army, police, and oil-protection forces, have participated in this plan.”
There are a large number of oil installations in the southern region, such as the oilfields in Basra and Al-Amarah, pipelines that carry oil from the oilfields to the Iraqi ports, depots, and refineries, that cover large areas in the governorates of southern Iraq.
For his part, Colonel Mahdi Habib, director of regiments of the oil police in the southern region, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The new plans are based on coordination with the army and police forces to provide sufficient security for all oil facilities in all governorates of southern Iraq, particularly after receiving this information.”
He said: “The oil police personnel in southern Iraq number 17,000. They are entrusted with the task of protecting oil facilities that stretch hundreds of kilometers from city centers. Accordingly, protection of these facilities is a difficult task. Therefore, we are awaiting the enforcement of a decision to recruit 5,000 new employees to reinforce these forces’ capability.”
He noted: “Completion of the US forces’ combat mission will not affect these forces’ capability because they have been protecting these facilities for a long time now.”
Iraq currently produces approximately 2.5 million barrels of crude oil daily, and more than 90 percent of the total Iraqi oil exports come from the oil of the south.
Elsewhere, Major General Hamid Abdullah Ibrahim, director general of the Iraqi Oil Police, called on the Supreme Judicial Council to enforce the law on oil smuggling.
Maj. Gen Ibrahim said in press statements: “Iraq lost $6 billion in the period from 2006 to 2009 because of acts of sabotage and vandalism against oil installations. However, the loss dropped to half a billion dollars this year after stepping up the protection measures.”