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Saboteurs attack major Iraqi oil pipeline
TIKRIT, Iraq -- Saboteurs blew up a giant oil pipeline in northern Iraq, halting oil exports to Turkey only days after they resumed and cutting off vital income for an economy in shambles. The new Iraqi police commander vowed on Saturday to pursue the "conspirators" behind the attack.
Iraqi oil exports to Turkey had begun only on Wednesday, and the explosion early Friday near Baiji, 125 miles northeast of Baghdad, cut them off completely, acting Iraqi oil minister Thamer al-Ghadaban said in Baghdad.
Police Brig. Gen. Ahmed Ibrahim, once imprisoned for speaking out against Saddam Hussein, was appointed Saturday to be the top Iraqi law enforcement official. He blamed the explosion on "a group of conspirators who received money from a particular party," which he didn't identify.
"With God's help, we will arrest those people and bring them to justice," Ibrahim said. "The damage inflicted on the pipeline is damage done to all Iraqi people."
Al-Ghadaban said it would take several days to get the pipeline working again.
"It is a large pipeline with large volume of crude oil," he said.
The 600-mile pipeline has a diameter of 46 inches. It runs from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk to the Turkish city of Ceyhan and handles all oil exports to Turkey.
"There is no oil flowing into Turkey right now," said Col. Bobby Nicholson, chief engineer for the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division.
Oil began flowing through the pipeline on Wednesday, and Turkey's semiofficial Anatolia news agency, citing officials, reported 750,000 barrels were pumped before it was attacked. Turkish officials had earlier blamed the pipeline troubles on "telecommunications problems."
Iraq has the world's second-largest proven crude reserves, at 112 billion barrels, but its pipelines, pumping stations and oil reservoirs are dilapidated after more than a decade of neglect. Northern Iraq, site of the giant Kirkuk oil fields, accounts for 40 percent of Iraq's oil production.
Ibrahim was appointed by Bernard Kerik, the former New York police commissioner tasked with rebuilding Iraq's Interior Ministry, as his senior deputy.
"We're setting up a new police force, bringing in modern weapons and leadership to guard and secure the country, and soon everyone will be safe," he said at a Baghdad news conference.
Ibrahim had been working as head of the Iraqi police's special investigations unit and was shot in the right leg during a police raid last month. As well as the weapons seized, that raid also netted a high-ranking member of the Saddam Fedayeen militia.
"Gen. Ibrahim's actions reflect tremendous courage, professionalism and dedication to duty," Kerik said in a statement.
Meanwhile, an American soldier was wounded by shrapnel Saturday when a patrol of Abrams tanks, armored personnel carriers and Humvees was ambushed near Baqouba, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad.
The attackers detonated a roadside bomb made of four 155 mm artillery shells, then opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, said Capt. Jon Casey of the 4th Infantry Division, who was on the patrol.
"We engaged them with our own automatic weapons and called in helicopter support," he said. "We had no further contact and secured the area."
Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division conducted 11 raids across north-central Iraq and detained five people, including three suspected regime loyalists and a man who allegedly had threatened to kill a U.S. soldier, MacDonald said.
The division also announced the detention of Said Ali al-Karim, a Baqouba cleric known as "the prophet" it said had urged violence against Americans and financed Saddam loyalists fighting U.S. forces.
It said al-Karim, which it described as "a counselor to Saddam Hussein," was arrested Monday and could be charged with inciting violence, funding attacks and possessing illegal weapons. It gave no explanation for the delay in reporting his arrest.
Associated Press writers Andrew England in Baqouba and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.