Friday, 23 August, 2019

Staff evacuated as rocket strikes near foreign oil firms in Iraq

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. — AP  File There was no immediate claim of responsibility. — AP File
Patty Aguilar | 19 June, 2019, 22:17

His words came after an Iraqi military base where U.S. and allied coalition troops were stationed was been targeted by a rocket attack on Monday, just as the Pentagon released new photos purporting to show Iran was behind recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

A rocket has landed in the compound housing the headquarters of several global oil companies, including U.S. giant ExxonMobil, in Iraq's southern city of Basra, wounding two local workers, police said. In May, it evacuated staff from the West Qurna 1 oil field in Basra province. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Iraq's military ordered security agencies Wednesday to investigate who was behind the spate of attacks, which have caused little damage.

Police said the rocket was a short-range Katyusha missile that landed 100 meters from the section of the site used as a residence and operations centre by Exxon.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but analysts on the ground suggest the attacks are part of a concerted effort by Iran-backed militias to force out the U.S. presence in Iraq and reinforce Iranian influence in the country.

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The rocket hit the Burjesia residential and operations headquarters west of Basra, they said. Reports suggest some of the companies are planning to evacuate their foreign staff.

Companies operating at the site of the blast in Basra include ExxonMobil, Shell and Eni.

The series of incidents take place as tensions continue to ramp up between the U.S. and Iran, with Iraq seen as a possible site for any violent flare-up between the two rivals. The country hosts more than 5,000 USA troops, and is home to powerful Iranian-backed militias, some of whom want those US forces to leave.

Abdul-Mahdi also said that Exxon Mobil had begun returning to Iraq.

The Pentagon responded by ordering 1,000 additional troops to the region, to bolster security in the Middle East in the face of what USA officials said was a growing threat from Iran. While Iran has denied being involved, it laid mines in the 1980s targeting oil tankers around the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of the world's crude oil passes.

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