| An Iraqi mother in Baghdad cries as her son, who is suffering from cancer, leaves for treatment in Italy. (Reuters)
Baghdad, June 16 (Reuters): Anti-US guerrillas trying to discredit Iraq’s new interim government killed an Iraqi oil official and attacked foreign contractors today after strangling the country’s oil export lifeline.
With the formal end to US-led occupation only two weeks away, the shadowy insurgents have intensified assassinations and suicide bombings to prove that the interim government cannot hope to assert control after the handover.
In the latest attack on Iraq’s oil industry, saboteurs blew a hole in one of Iraq’s two southern oil export pipelines today for the second time in 48 hours, an Iraqi oil source said. The source said the damage was “fairly big”. US deputy secretary of defence Paul Wolfowitz, on a visit to Iraq previously shrouded in secrecy, met interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the defence and interior ministers.
“The meeting discussed the strategy of the Iraqi government to deal with important and serious issues of security, the economy and the political process,” a US statement said, without elaborating.
Wolfowitz, a powerful advocate of last year’s US-led invasion, escaped a guerrilla rocket attack on his hotel during an earlier visit to Baghdad in October.
A bomb attack destroyed an Iraqi police car and a civilian vehicle carrying foreigners in the western city of Ramadi. At least six Iraqis, including a policeman, were killed in the blast, a US Marine spokesman said. Witnesses said foreigners were also believed to be among the casualties.
Gunmen killed Ghazi Talabani, 70, a senior adviser in Iraq’s North Oil Company, in the northern city of Kirkuk, in the latest of many attacks on Iraqis accused by insurgents as collaborating with the US-British occupation.
Police said Talabani was shot as he was being driven to work. His driver was badly wounded. The gunmen escaped.
Manna al-Ubeidi, a senior official of the company, said Talabani, a second cousin of Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, was a popular figure who had refused to employ bodyguards.
An Iraqi official said all crude oil exports from southern Gulf ports had stopped after saboteurs hit pipelines feeding the Basra and Khor al-Amaya terminals this week. Sabotage had already stopped exports via a northern pipeline to Turkey.
Iraq was exporting over 1.6 million barrels per day of oil, its only independent source of revenue, and had hoped to match pre-war levels of some two million barrels per day by June 30. Industry sources said repairs could take at least a week, costing Iraq nearly $60 million a day until deliveries resume.
Anti-US guerrillas are believed to include former Saddam loyalists, nationalists from his minority Sunni sect and foreign Islamic militants, some linked to al Qaida.
Sadr ends uprising
As attacks surged elsewhere in Iraq, a radical cleric from the majority Shia in the sacred city of Najaf told his Mehdi Army militiamen to go home, possibly signalling the end of his 10-week-old uprising against US-led forces.
Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement ordering fighters to return home to “do their duty”.
Sadr agreed to a truce this month after weeks of fighting with US-led forces in Najaf and Karbala. He was under pressure from senior Shia clerics opposed to the violence and shocked at damage to Shia shrines. The cleric said this week he would set up a political party, which could contest national elections to be held by January.