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Sabotage Still Hampers Infrastructure Progress in Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2003 – Sabotage continues to hurt efforts to improve Iraq's infrastructure, but coalition forces are working to secure oil and electric lines so progress can be made, said Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez from his headquarters in Baghdad, today.

Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, said sabotage of a pipeline south of the Hadditha Dam on Aug. 15 caused an oil spill into the Euphrates River. The spill traveled to the town of Hit.

Coalition engineers, Iraqi Oil Ministry officials and local Iraqis contained the damage and are fixing the oil line. Other engineers are working to contain the spill. "Clearly, this is not good for the country, not good for the people," Sanchez said.

Other acts of sabotage were directed against the electrical system. In one instance, coalition military police noticed a series of flashes, and upon investigating, found an Iraqi civilian dump truck had taken down a power pylon. Upon further investigation, the MPs determined the pylon had been blown up. A note left at the scene said the attacks would continue until the electrical system is working. "Well, I can't fix the electricity until they stop dropping the towers," Sanchez said. Coalition engineers fixed the break, and other soldiers and Iraqis are securing the infrastructure.

Sanchez said coalition leaders understand the situation and are focused on securing Iraq's pipelines and power infrastructure. He said this is vital to stabilizing and securing the overall economic and quality-of-life improvements for the country.

U.S. and U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces are providing ground and air patrols and fixed-site security along portions of the 3,000 kilometers of oil and gas pipelines and the electrical infrastructure, the general said.

The first class of 185 trainees for the Iraq Civil Defense Force graduates today, Sanchez said, and will begin patrolling Baghdad's streets Monday. "We are going to expedite this training in order to get more Iraqis on the streets cooperating with us in bringing security and stability," he said.

Over the past week, coalition forces conducted 13,000 patrols across the country. More than 4,700 border guards are in place, controlling Iraq's borders, Sanchez said.

In his weekly briefing, the general said 12 coalition soldiers had been killed in the past week seven from hostile action and another 33 were wounded in action. He extended his condolences to the families and friends of "the dedicated soldiers who gave their lives for the security and stability of Iraq."

Iraqis continue to help coalition forces with information about arms caches and Saddam Hussein loyalists, he said.

Sanchez also provided an update about the Commanders' Emergency Response Fund Program, which allows local coalition commanders to fund promising projects.

"To date, we have distributed over $60 million," he said. "We've completed more than 6,200 projects, with 714 projects completed last week alone."

These projects allow commanders to -- literally, in some cases -- build bridges for the civilian community. Coalition forces also have rebuilt or dig wells, refurbished schools and built police stations.

"The list continues as we work to improve working and living and playing conditions for Iraqis across the country," the general said.

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