Mortar attack sparks huge fire at Iraqi oil facility; U.S. jet crashes

Monday, November 27th 2006, 6:10 am
By: News On 6

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ A mortar attack ignited a huge fire Monday night at an oil facility near Kirkuk, shutting the flow of crude oil to a major refinery, and a U.S. Air Force jet with one pilot aboard crashed in Anbar province, a hotbed of Iraq's Sunni-Arab insurgency, officials said.

As Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki prepared for a summit meeting with President Bush this week in Jordan, Britain said it expects to withdraw thousands of its 7,000 military personnel from Iraq by the end of next year, and Poland and Italy announced the impending withdrawal of their remaining troops.

Two mortar rounds hit a pipeline filtering facility 15 miles northwest of Kirkuk, according to an official at the North Oil Co., speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The fire was burning out of control and could take hours or longer to extinguish, and the flow of oil from all of Kirkuk's rich fields has been shut down to the massive Beiji refinery to the southwest, the official said.

After the U.S. Air Force jet went down, a witness said other U.S. warplanes rushed to the crash site and circled above it. The U.S. military, which released a statement on the crash, did not have any information on the suspected cause or the fate of the pilot.