Explosion halts Iraq oil exports to Turkey
* Government extends state of emergency for 30 days
* Three killed in Iraq blast as US forces continue Operation Matador
* Zarqawi’s statement distributed outside mosque
BAGHDAD: Iraq stopped efforts to resume sustained crude oil exports through Turkey on Friday after a bomb hit the main pumping station feeding its northern pipeline, said an Iraqi oil official.
The blast at the Athana crude gathering and pumping station came as Iraq was reviving crude flows to storage tanks at Turkey’s Ceyhan port, said the official. Hours before the blast, shipping sources said that Iraq had resumed pumping crude to Turkey and was exporting almost 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) on that route.
The Iraqi oil official gave a more conservative figure, saying an average of 100,000 bpd had been moving through the pipeline to Ceyhan, where about 400,000 barrels were stored. He said another sabotage blast had hit a domestic pipeline from Kirkuk that feeds refineries.
In other violence, a suicide bomber drove his explosives-laden car into a truck transporting 40 Iraqi soldiers in Baquba, killing two soldiers and a civilian and wounding six others, said security officials.
But Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo during a visit to South America, “The wave of violence is a sign of the terrorists’ weakness and the only recourse they have left are car bombs. They have lost control in various cities and have been surrounded.”
However, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari announced that he was extending for 30 days a state of emergency throughout the country, except for the three Kurdish provinces.
Jaafari’s office said the extension was in effect from Friday and the reason for the extension was the “persistence conditions justifying the state of emergency.” The state of emergency, introduced by the previous interim administration, gives the government the right to impose curfews, issue arrest warrants and restrict movement around the country.
A policeman was also shot dead and three were wounded when gunmen opened fire on their patrol in western Baghdad, said security officials and medics. Two civilians were also injured. Near Basra, gunmen kidnapped a border guard colonel from his home in Abi al-Khasib, said army officials.
Meanwhile, US marines pressed on with their largest military campaign “Operation Matador” since the spectacular assault on the extremist enclave of Fallujah west of Baghdad last November.
The marines, who have some 1,000 men engaged in the operation, claim they have killed more than 100 militants over the past five days. Abu Musab Zarqawi’s network denied the losses in an Internet statement. The Iraqi Red Crescent was distributing supplies to families said to have fled the fighting. Some 350 families fled the town of Al-Qaim, said Red Crescent spokesman Mazen Abdallah.
In Baghdad, a statement alleged to be signed by Zarqawi, was distributed in broad daylight outside a Sunni mosque after Friday prayers. The statement, whose authenticity could not be verified, denounced alliances between “the troops of the crusaders, the Rafidha (Shias) and the Jews.”
Later, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) leader Sheikh Sadr Addin Qubanchi called for a purge from the government and civil service of former high-ranking members of Saddam’s Baath party. “Today there are 100,000 high-ranking Baathists in Iraq and it is up to the government to purge the country of them,” said Sheikh adding, “By a purge, we mean they should not be allowed into any important decision making posts, not that they should be physically liquidated.” agencies