- Title: IRAQ: Iraqi authorities tightens oilfield security in south
- Date: 7th September 2010
- Summary: BASRA, IRAQ (SEPTEMBER 5, 2010) (REUTERS) PICK-UP TRUCKS OF OIL SECURITY FORCE LEAVING HEADQUARTERS VARIOUS OF OIL SECURITY PERSONNEL CHECKING GIANT OIL PIPELINE FOR BOMBS OR EXPLOSIVE MATERIALS AMARA, IRAQ (SEPTEMBER 4, 2010) (REUTERS) ENTRANCE TO U.S. OILFIELD SERVICE COMPANY WEATHERFORD SITE VARIOUS OF WORKERS AT OIL FACILITY 'WEATHERFORD' SIGN ON SIDE OF BUILDING MASKED U.S. PRIVATE GUARD AT WEATHERFORD SITE BASRA, IRAQ (SEPTEMBER 3, 2010) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF BASRA CITY COUNCIL ALI AL-MALIKI, HEAD OF THE MUNICIPAL SECURITY COMMITTEE IN BASRA, SITTING AT HIS DESK IRAQI FLAG (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ALI AL-MALIKI, HEAD OF THE MUNICIPAL SECURITY COMMITTEE IN BASRA, SAYING: "We expect that al Qaeda will carry out terrorists attacks but, God willing, they will not succeed because our security forces are vigilant. And as I said, there have been a number of terrorist attempts, which were foiled by the security forces before they were implemented."
- Embargoed: 22nd September 2010 13:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,Energy
- Reuters ID: LVAALWJWEABAG5M00W15NB9A56J5
- Story Text: Iraq steps up security around its southern oilfields after intelligence reports suggest al Qaeda are planning to attack the country's oil facilities.
Iraq says it has tightened security measures around oil infrastructure and oilfields in the south of the country, in response to intelligence suggesting al Qaeda and other insurgent groups plan to attack oil facilities.
Iraq is looking to its massive oil resources for its future stability and prosperity as it emerges from the worst of the sectarian violence set off after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Deals struck with international oil majors could quadruple Iraq's output capacity to Saudi levels of 12 million barrels per day in six to seven years, if they are successful, and allow it to rebuild after decades of war, sanctions and neglect.
However, insecurity and potential attacks against international oil companies are one of the many risks to the plan as the country continues to deal with a resilient Sunni Islamist insurgency.
Ali al-Maliki, the head of the municipal security committee in the southern oil hub of Basra, said the intelligence indicated al Qaeda in Iraq and Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party were switching their sights to economic targets and oil companies.
"We expect that al Qaeda will carry out terrorists attacks but, God willing, they will not succeed because our security forces are vigilant. And as I said, there have been a number of terrorist attempts, which were foiled by the security forces before they were implemented," he told Reuters in an interview.
Basra, in Iraq's Shi'ite south, has enormous strategic importance as the hub for the country's vital oil exports that account for more than 95 percent of government revenue.
"We have prepared a pre-emptive plan to protect vital oil facilities and foreign oil investors," Maliki said, without providing details.
Iraq's Shi'ite south, where the majority of the oilfields being developed by foreign firms are located, has been relatively safe and stable for the past two years. So far, the main threat to international oil firms coming in to work there are Iranian-made roadside bombs planted by Shi'ite militia to target U.S. forces.
As U.S. forces become less numerous and less visible, some security experts wonder if Shi'ite militia might turn their attentions to oil firms.
The head of the south oil police, Brigadier Moussa Abdul Hasan, said his forces were on full alert.
"We are fully prepared and we have taken all the possibilities into consideration. Frankly speaking, oil facilities are a target and therefore, we have tightened security around the oil facilities. We were on full alert before and after the entry of the foreign investors. The withdrawal of the U.S. (combat) forces will have no impact on us because the oil facilities have already been fully secured," he told Reuters.
"The operation command, and in full coordination with the operation command of the oil police in Basra, has already secured all the routes to the oilfields widely used by foreign firms, and cleared them of roadside bombs. We are providing security whether by the police or the army. We have also secured all the roads leading into the oilfields and we have increased the number of checkpoints," he added.
Emerging threats against oil infrastructure represent a challenge to Iraqi security forces following the formal end of U.S. combat operations in August and a fall in U.S. troop numbers to 50,000. The remaining U.S. troops will withdraw completely by the end of 2011 under a bilateral security pact.
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