British navy watching for Iraq oil pirates

Oct. 29, 2007 at 4:21 PM
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BASRA, Iraq, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- British naval forces are training Iraq’s navy in the fight against piracy as Iraq’s oil terminals sit as targets where a hit could cripple the country.

The International Maritime Bureau, a U.N. service that monitors acts of piracy, said there has been a 14-percent rise in such acts already this year compared with 2006.

On Aug. 2 a Cyprus container vessel was attacked near the Umm Qasr coast. An officer was hurt when pirates boarded, started firing and robbed the crew.

“The pirates operating in Iraq are heavily armed and well trained,” IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan told the Sunday Herald. “So far, they have only been motivated by financial gain, but given the security environment and the availability of arms we need to treat this new development very carefully indeed.”

Nearly all of Iraq’s 1.6 million barrels of oil exports go to market from Persian Gulf ports. Money from those sales bring in more than 90 percent of Iraq’s federal budget and account for nearly 70 percent of gross domestic product.

That’s why the British navy stationed in the Persian Gulf is on a special lookout for pirates and is training Iraq’s young navy in anti-pirate operations.

“A successful attack would have a huge effect on attempts to develop the country,” said a British navy spokesman. “We are working to try and establish who the good guys are, and monitoring all sea traffic -- working out what the pattern of legitimate traffic is -- so we can spot the odd man out should they turn up to carry out acts of piracy or terrorism.”

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