Iraqi forces foiled 23 attempts to explode power towers: ministry

A combined picture of transmission towers

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraqi forces have foiled 23 attempts to explode transmission towers in the country in the past few days, an interior ministry’s spokesman said on Saturday, as the central government struggles with power outage.

Major General Saad Maan said the security forces were able to thwart attacks against power towers in the Iraqi provinces recently, citing it “some success”.

“Twenty-three attempts to damage electricity pylons have been thwarted in the past few days,” Maan told state television.

State TV reported on Saturday that four Islamic State (ISIS) suspects were detained in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Saladin and Anbar provinces over the attacks.

Unclaimed attacks on Iraq’s electricity network have been increasing since the start of summer, at a time when the country is facing severe power shortages.

Authorities normally accuse the Islamic State of being behind the attacks.

Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji, spokesman of Iraqi joint operations, said the military had prepared a plan to stop further attacks on the transmission towers.

Khafaji further said military commanders would be responsible for securing the power lines and towers and that those responsible for any failure would be held accountable.

“Those who were detained have links to the ISIS terrorist organization,” he added.

On Friday, militants blew up a transmission tower in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad. The pylon supplies the Tarmiya pumping station which serves Karkh, the city’s west and home to several million people.

Residents of Karkh told AFP on Saturday that water had been cut off since the day before.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met security and intelligence officials on Friday and ordered the establishment of a crisis unit to protect the electricity network.

Oil-rich Iraq produces just 16,000 megawatts of power – far below the 24,000 megawatts needed, and even further from the expected future needs of a country whose population is set to double by 2050, according to the U.N.

The country buys gas and electricity from neighboring Iran to supply about a third of its power sector, which has been worn down by years of conflict and poor maintenance, and is unable to meet the needs of the country’s 40 million population.

Last month, areas in the country’s south were plunged into darkness for several days after a series of similar attacks.

Around the same time, Iran briefly suspended its gas and electricity exports because of Iraq’s failure to pay a $6 billion energy debt.

The failure of Iraq’s power system is particularly acute in the baking hot summer months, when temperatures shoot past 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

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