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Three boats explode at Iraqi oil terminal
Three boats have exploded an Iraqi oil platform and two oil tankers off the coast, according to a British military spokesman.
The blasts on Saturday evening, appear to be coordinated human bomb attacks, Captain Hisham H Halawi said.
There was no immediate word on casualties or damage from the blasts, he added.
It was the first known maritime attack on Iraqi oil facilities since the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
Resistance fighters have been attacking pipelines in the north and south of Iraq, at times disrupting the export of oil.
The first blast came when an occupation warship patrolling the Gulf sighted a small boat near an oil platform, Halawi said. The warship sent a team to the boat, but when they boarded it, the boat exploded, he said.
Halawi said he did not know if there were occupation casualties.
The other boats exploded alongside two oil tankers near the Abbott oil facility south of Iraq's main port, Umm Qasr, he said.
The attack appeared to resemble a 12 October 2000 attack on USS Cole off Yemen, in which an explosives-laden boat rammed the destroyer, killing 17 American sailors. On 6 October 2002, a boat rammed a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen and exploded, killing one crewman.
Both those attacks were blamed on the al-Qaida network.
The oil attacks came three days after near simultaneous car bombings in the southern Iraqi city of
A small boat has blown up next to an Iraqi oil platform in the Gulf, in a suspected suicide bombing.
There was no damage to the al-Bakr rig and nobody was hurt there, but there were likely to be casualties on the boat, the UK Ministry of Defence said.
A second boat was intercepted by a coalition vessel as it approached the oil terminal and blew up when a search party boarded it, UK officials said.
There are no reports yet of casualties in the second incident.
It is reported that the terminal - critically important in allowing Iraq to export its oil - has now been shut down.
It lies about 15 kilometres (9 miles) south of Iraq's main port, Umm Qasr.
It is believed to be the first maritime attack on Iraqi oil installations since the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
The attack appeared to resemble the October 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole off Yemen, when 17 US sailors died.
In that incident, blamed on al-Qaeda, two suicide bombers rammed a small boat packed with explosives into the side of the ship as it was refuelling.