Iraq prepares to assume control over oil security

Oct 14, 2004 02:00 AM

Iraq is forming highly mobile security forces to completely take over by December the protection of its oil infrastructure from a South African contractor, security officials said. A unit of the newly re-established paramilitary Border Police deployed around a pipeline in southern Iraq as contractor Erinys prepared to wind down operations in Iraq.
"The border police and other security units will act as a rapid reaction force ready to fill in gaps in security upon the request of the oil ministry," Major General Ahmad al-Khafaji told. Khafaji heads the Interior Ministry Support Unit, which is in charge of infrastructure protection. The Oil Ministry also has its own police force.

Oil Minister Thamir al-Ghadhban, who took office in July, has asked Erinys -- awarded a two-year contract after the 2003 Iraq war -- to hand over operations to his ministry by December. This means Iraqis will take over security for thousands of kilometres of pipelines and scores of oilfields, refineries and pumping stations, which have seen relentless sabotage that has cost the country billions of dollars in revenue.
Iraq has lost an estimated $ 2.7 bn in revenue since the war from sabotage attacks against oil export pipelines. The Oil Ministry says attacks against the rest of the pipeline network cost Iraq another $ 3 bn as refinery output fell and imports of gasoline and other refined products rose.

Iraqi Border Police members deployed along a 160 km (100 mile) domestic pipeline running from the Shuaiba refinery near the southern city of Basra to storage tanks further north. Thieves have unearthed the pipeline and dug holes in it to steal oil.
"We will stop this kind of theft and sabotage that has cost the country dearly. Our capabilities have surpassed those of Erinys," said Border Police Commander Ali Al-Mousawi. Other units from the Iraqi National Guard have already taken control of two nearby crude export pipelines running from Basra to Gulf offshore terminals, but this has not prevented attacks on the pipelines, which US and British planes also patrol.

Until a few months ago, protection of the system was the domain of Erinys. Iraq has been rebuilding its own forces, which were dissolved after the war. An Erinys official said the company will comply with Ghadhban's orders and deliver all equipment to the Oil Ministry.
Although Erinys employed thousands of Iraqis and built upon a network of intelligence gathering, attacks against the oil facilities have persisted, killing and injuring scores of people since the US led invasion. The identity of the attackers are unknown and none have been caught, although officials blame foreign infiltrators and former ruling Baath Party operatives for the sabotage.

Source: Arab Times
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