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Sabotage Closes Iraq's Oil Export Pipeline to Turkey - 2003-08-16


Iraq's top oil ministry official says that a fire in a newly-opened export pipeline to Turkey was probably caused by sabotage.

Thamer Ghadban said Saturday that the explosion and fire in the pipeline was most likely caused by a bomb.

The 950 kilometer pipeline had to be shut down Friday as firefighters battled the blaze just north of the Iraqi town of Baiji. U.S. forces and Iraqi oil workers are trying to contain the fire.

The pipeline, which flows to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, had been closed since the war, but had just reopened Wednesday.

In addition to the fire, U.S. military officials say other portions of the pipeline had to be shut down for repair because of technical problems and sabotage.

Elsewhere in Iraq, one U.S. soldier was slightly wounded when his convoy was attacked near Baquba, 70 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. The town has been the scene of several clashes between U.S. troops and insurgents believed to have links to Saddam Hussein.

Also in Baquba, the U.S. military said Saturday, it has arrested Said Ali Al-Karim, a cleric and former Saddam loyalist. The cleric was arrested on Monday and is charged with distributing materials inciting violence against coalition forces, as well as funding such attacks. Illegal weapons were also seized during the arrest.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports say U.S. forces have stopped patrols in Baghdad's Sadr City district after an incident there led to the death of an Iraqi citizen earlier this week.

On Friday, Shi'ite Muslim clerics in Sadr City denounced the United States and warned U.S. forces to stay away. The clerics refused to accept a U.S. apology for an incident Wednesday in which the downdraft from a U.S. helicopter blew down a religious school's banner. Locals said it was deliberate.

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