Iraq’s largest oil refinery shuts down after attack

Saturday, February 26, 2011

BAGHDAD - Iraq’s largest oil refinery was shut down Saturday after gunmen bombed three production units, in an attack that killed four engineers and injured three workers.

The attack completely halted work at the refinery, which produces some 150,000 barrels per day of oil derivatives. The plant is located in the northern town of Beiji, 200 km north of the capital Baghdad.

Minister of Oil Abdul-Karim El-Lueby described the attack as a “plan against the economy, aimed at undermining services for Iraqi citizens”.

El-Lueby said that he has formed a high-level team made up of officials from the ministry and supporting companies to repair the damage, adding that a fire at the site is under control.

However, it was not clear when the refinery would operate again.

“The production process has stopped. We can not say when work will resume again because the attack caused severe damage,” said an official at the North Oil Company, which operates the refinery.

The Beiji refinery is a main fuel supplier for several electric power stations. The attack is thus expected to worsen the country’s power shortage problems.

Thousands of people have protested since last summer across Iraq to demand an improvement in electricity services.

Iraq’s power problems date back to the early 1990s, when the national electricity network was destroyed in the first Gulf War. Since the US-led invasion in 2003, most attempts at fixing the power supply crisis and providing better water resources have failed.

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