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World - Middle East

Iraq: Key oil pipeline damaged by U.S. airstrike

A U.S. airstrike severed a northern Iraqi pipeline on Sunday  

February 28, 1999
Web posted at: 5:59 p.m. EST (2259 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A U.S. airstrike severed an Iraqi pipeline Sunday, halting the flow of oil to Turkey, an Iraqi official said.

The strike hit a pumping station in northern Iraq, killing one Iraqi and wounding two others seriously, Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid said.

Rashid said an Iraq-employed observer who worked with the U.N. oil-for-food program was killed.

Earlier Sunday, coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone over northern Iraq came under fire, U.S. military officials in Germany and the United States said.

U.S. planes responded by releasing air-to-ground missiles and laser-guided bombs on three Iraqi military installations.

The official Iraqi News Agency reported earlier Sunday that a 3-year-old boy was among three people killed when bombs fell Sunday afternoon on several villages in Nenawa province in northern Iraq.

But U.S. Army Col. Richard Bridges, the Pentagon's director of defense information, said the pipeline was neither targeted nor hit by allied forces.

"We have no indication that we hit anything other than what we intended to hit, which is elements of Iraq's integrated air defense system," Bridges said.

Pipeline carries crucial oil

Sanctions imposed on Iraq by the U.N. Security Council following the Gulf War sharply limit the sale of oil, the country's economic mainstay.

The oil-for-food program allows Iraq to pump a limited amount every six months to pay for food and medicine.

The pipeline allegedly hit Sunday carries the bulk of Iraq's oil exports from oilfields in northern Iraq to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Rashid said Iraq was exporting 2.1 million barrels per day of crude oil under the U.N. deal.

The no-fly zones were set up after the Gulf War to protect Kurdish rebels in the north of Iraq and Shiite Muslim insurgents in the south.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein repeatedly has challenged the no-fly zones since the United States and Britain launched airstrikes in mid-December to punish him for not cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors.

U.S. and British planes that patrol the zones have struck Iraqi military sites almost daily since late December.

The allies say they strike in response to Iraqi attacks or when Iraqi radar systems lock onto patrolling Western planes.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Situation in Iraq

Allied jets strike 2 targets in Iraqi no-fly zone
February 27, 1999
U.S. warplanes attack near Baghdad
February 24, 1999
Iraq makes arrests in cleric's assassination
February 23, 1999
Allied jets attack air defenses in north and south Iraq
February 22, 1999
U.S. aircraft attack Iraqi positions in north
February 22, 1999
U.S., British jets attack Iraqi military sites
February 21, 1999

United Nations
The Iraq Foundation
Iraqi National Congress
Permanent Mission of Iraq to the UN
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