DIYARBAKIR: Two people were killed and one person was wounded in southeastern Turkey on Tuesday after suspected Kurdish militants blew up a pipeline carrying Iraqi oil, security sources said.
An official speaking on condition of anonymity blamed the blast that struck the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline link on sabotage by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past.
"It was a terrorist attack," the official said.
The explosion occurred at 6:30 p.m. (1530 GMT) on the pipeline that carries about a quarter of Iraq’s crude exports. Pumping was stopped and firefighters worked to contain the blaze, the officials said.
The victims were killed and wounded when their vehicles caught fire as they passed the segment of the pipeline engulfed in flames, one official said. The pipeline runs near a motorway in Sirnak province, which borders northern Iraq and Syria.
The explosive was remote-controlled, NTV news channel reported, but that could not be immediately confirmed.
The section of the pipeline that was struck is near the village of Magara in Sirnak province, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Iraqi border. The oil link is operated by state-run Botas on the Turkish side.
The PKK, which has waged a 26-year insurgency against the Turkish state, said it was behind a July explosion on the same pipeline in an area near the site of Tuesday’s blast. That explosion knocked out flows for several days.
The PKK has targeted other strategic assets like railways and pipelines. In 2008, the guerrillas said they blew up BP-led link carrying Azeri crude that halted flows for almost three weeks, driving up global crude prices.
The conflict between the PKK and Turkish military, which began in August 1984 as a campaign for an independent Kurdish homeland, has claimed more than 40,000 lives, mostly Kurdish. Violence has risen this year after the militants called off a unilateral, 14-month ceasefire in June.
More than 100 military personnel have been killed since March, already exceeding the death toll throughout all of 2009.
The Kirkuk-Ceyhan link, which consists of two parallel pipelines, carries an average 500,000 barrels of oil a day to the Mediterranean coast, where it is loaded onto tankers.
When the larger, main line is damaged, Iraqi officials can use different pumping stations located along the route within Iraq to switch the flow of crude to the other line, oil industry sources have said.