UPDATED: Bombs strike Basra pipeline
Heightened security fails to prevent major pipeline attack at Basra
UPDATE 3: 07.09 GMT Iraqi oil officials are reporting that production at the Rumaila oilfield operated by BP and CNPC is reducing by 700,00 barrels per day as a result of the explosion.
UPDATE 2: 06.35 GMT An Iraqi offical claims the attack will not affect crude exports. "We have enough storage until we repair these pipelines. We will bypass the oil pumping operations through another pipeline network until repairs are done," spokesman Asim Jihad told Reuters. It will take a week or less to repair the damage done to the pipelines, he said.
UPDATE 1: 06:12 GMT Rania El Gamal, a Reuters correspondent in Baghdad citing an industry source, is reporting the fire has been extinguished, and operators of the south have been asked by the South Oil Company to trim production as a result of the bombing.
A pipeline carrying crude from the major Iraqi oil fields to the Zubair 1 storage terminal near Basra was subject to a triple bomb attack late yesterday, according to multiple reports quoting Iraq's oil police.
A police source quoted by Reuters said three explosions were heard sequentially, starting a huge fire that as of 5.15am GMT is yet to be put out. The attack was carried out despite claims that security around the south's oil facilties.
The effect on oil production or exports is not yet known.
"We cannot go near the explosion site because the fire is still raging ... we fear the fire might extend to other nearby oil pipelines," the police source told Reuters. The deputy head of the Basra provincial council, Ahmed al-Sulaiti, told the Associated Press that firefighters were still battling the fire late yesterday.
Only yesterday Major General Hamid Ibrahim, the head of Iraq's oil police, said that his forces were stepping up patrols in anticipation of an increase in attacks on oil infrastructure as the last of the US armed forces quit the country by the end of the year.
"There is direct targeting of the oil sector ... By the start of the withdrawal there will be attacks not just on oil, but they (insurgents) will try to rattle the situation in the country," he told Reuters in an interview. "We are ready and on alert".
The news comes as Iraq's oil police are handing over responsibility for the security of oil infrastructure to a new force, which will be responsible for all energy infrastructure, from oil wells to power stations.
The Energy Police will absorb the existing Oil Police, who have been criticised for their patchy and disjointed coverage of Iraq's most valuable assets, with local militias and Army units frequently drafted to fill gaps on an ad hoc basis.