- Title: IRAQ/FILE: Iraq tightens oilfield security in south
- Date: 17th June 2014
- Summary: ZUBAIR OIL FIELD, BASRA, IRAQ (FILE) (REUTERS) FOREIGNER WORKER WORKING ON OIL PIPE AT OIL FIELD WORKERS WIELDING PIPE WORKERS NEAR OIL PIPES VARIOUS OF OIL WORKERS WORKING INSIDE OIL INSTALLATION
- Embargoed: 2nd July 2014 13:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA3G9D56UJC18FZR0HBV1HAK42W
- Story Text: Iraq has tightened security and deployed extra troops around oil infrastructure and oilfields to help protect its vital energy industry from Sunni Muslim insurgents who have gained ground over the past week.
Militants from the insurgent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have routed Baghdad's army and seized much of the north half of the country in the past week, threatening to break up Iraq and unleash all-out sectarian warfare.
"The oil companies should not be concerned because any assault against them is a red line. Today we are working to form a military force of 20,000 soldiers. Their first mission is to guard the border of the province. They will be the security cordon of the province," Ahmed al-Sulaitee, the head of the financial committee at the Basra provincial council said on Tuesday (June 17).
Iraq looks to its massive oil resources for its future stability and prosperity, but still confronts a resilient Sunni Islamist insurgency now pushing southward towards Baghdad.
Iraq's mainly 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.
"The oil positions are secured and its gates are guarded. There is an intelligence effort in addition to the helicopters that is providing protection to the oil fields. New security measures have been taken," al-Sulaitee added.
Basra, the main city in the far south at the edge of the Gulf, has enormous strategic importance as the hub for oil exports accounting for over 95 percent of government revenue.
Brigadier Moussa Abdul-Hassan, chief of the South Oil Police, has denied rumours that foreign oil workers were being evacuated from Basra and said work is going on smoothly at oilfields around the city.
Officials from the state-run South Oil Co. (SOC) also said operations in the southern oilfields are normal and none of the foreign companies have informed them of any evacuation plans.
"We did not take any personnel from the police forces at the oilfield, and they are still performing their duties. The police forces at the oilfield consist of many battalions and they are trained well to protect oil facilities. They are backed by intelligence and security efforts, from Basra operations command. We also took precautionary security measures to prevent security violations inside the oil firms because we cannot guarantee the position of all the workers that are working with the oil firms," said al-Sulaitee.
Iraq is now dependent on oil exports from the south after Sunni militants attacked the northern Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline in March.
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