Iraq oil exports hit by pipeline leak, emergency laws due shortly
Iraqi oil exports were hit by a rupture to a main pipeline in the south as the caretaker government said it would announce emergency powers to tackle the country's rampant insurgency "very shortly".
In the latest violence, five Iraqi national guards were killed in an attack on a checkpoint south of Baghdad. A US marine also died of his injuries as a British soldier was wounded in a bomb attack in the southern city of Basra.
An official at the oil terminal in Basra, Iraq's main pumping site, said exports had fallen from 84,000 barrels per hour to 40,000 after the pipeline was breached.
It was not immediately clear if the pipeline had been sabotaged or had sprung a leak. The rupture was at the site of one of two sabotage attacks last month which effectively halted Iraqi exports for almost a week.
"I can confirm the pipeline was breached. The cause was unknown," a British military spokesman said, adding that repairs and investigations were continuing.
World oil prices soared last month when the two pipelines pumping crude to two terminals in the Gulf were both shut down by attacks. Iraq's northern exports had already been crippled by saboteurs.
Meanwhile the caretaker government, which has identified security as a top priority since being handed power by the US-led coalition on Monday, said it would announce new powers to deal with Iraq's 14-month-old insurgency soon.
"The national safety law will be announced very shortly," Barham Saleh, deputy prime minister for national security, said in an interview with Al-Iraqiya television broadcast late Friday.
The government said its justice and human rights ministers would hold a press conference at 5:00 pm (1300 GMT) Saturday on the new national safety law.
"This law will give the government the capability of imposing emergency laws in specific areas and for set periods to deal with terrorist threat," he said.
President Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar said in an interview published Wednesday that the "national safety" law would be "less repressive than emergency laws but with severe penalties for people carrying out terrorist acts".
More than 400 people died in a spate of car bombings, suicide attacks and raids last month in the run-up to the handover of power on June 28.
In the continuing bloodshed, five Iraqi national guards were killed and five wounded in an attack on a checkpoint in Mahmudiyah, medical sources said.
"Five dead bodies were brought in here, comprising one officer and four soldiers," said Haydar Sabah, a doctor at the town's hospital.
He said three of the wounded were seriously hurt.
A US marine died after an attack west of Baghdad while a British soldier sustained minor injuries in a bomb attack on a military convoy.
"A marine assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force died of wounds received in action yesterday (Friday) in the Al-Anbar province while conducting security and stability operations," the US military said.
The marines have lost seven men in five days in operations around Al-Anbar, from where US officials suspect alleged Al-Qaeda operative Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi is operating.
The US military has carried out four air raids on homes in Fallujah that it says have served as safe houses for followers of the fugitive Jordanian Islamist, who has a 25-million-dollar US bounty on his head.
The marine's death brought to at least 637 the number of US soldiers killed in action in Iraq since last year's invasion.
The British soldier was receiving medical treatment after a military convoy was targeted by a bomb attack in Basra on Friday morning.
An Iraqi policeman was also killed in the northern city of Mosul on Friday when gunmen attacked a traffic control point, US-led forces said.
Meanwhile, the US army announced Saturday it had detained 51 people after raiding an alleged bomb factory in southern Baghdad.
Four vehicles were being prepared for use as car-bombs, it said.