Times Online
March 27, 2008

The price of crude oil surged this morning after saboteurs bombed one of Iraq’s main oil pipelines in what was feared to be a backlash attack by powerful Shia Muslim militias.

The attack is being seen as an act of retaliation for the Government’s campaign to crack down on the Shia private armies, many of them Iranian-backed, which have exerted a powerful and violent influence over the south and centre of Iraq.

The explosion on the Zubair 1 pipeline, four miles south of Basra, happened on the third day of an operation by the Iraqi Army to defeat and round up gunmen in the oil port of Basra.

It is not known if the saboteurs belonged to any of the militia groups, although previously the Mahdi Army — a 60,000 strong private force loyal to the radical anti-American cleric Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr — has been blamed for similar attacks.

“The pipeline was severely damaged,” said an official for the Southern Oil Company.

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