Details

On 19 June, at approximately 04:00 AST, there were reportedly three explosions in the Burjesia business and residence area west of the city of Basra, southern Iraq. Police have since released a statement asserting that the explosions were the result of a short-range Katyusha missile attack. According to reports, the rocket landed approximately 100 metres from a residential area of the site, and the headquarters of operations for Exxon Mobil. Three Iraqi workers were injured, one seriously. Unconfirmed Iraqi security sources have claimed that the compound housing oil company employees was not intended target of the attack, although no group or individual has claimed responsibility. The attack follows a similar incident from 18 June, wherein a rocket landed near an Iraqi military base hosting US forces in Mosul, northern Iraq.

In the wake of the attack, Exxon Mobil has evacuated 21 foreign staff from the area with immediate effect. The company had only recently been transferring employees back to the area after they were evacuated from the West Qurna 1 Oil Field in Basra Province following the attacks in May. No other large oil companies have taken the steps to remove personnel from the area, despite the location of the explosion also being home to Shell PLC and Eni employees.

Analyst Comment

This is the latest in a spate of attacks across Iraq that include a rocket attack on an Iraqi Army base north of Baghdad, and a mortar attack against an Iraqi Airbase IVO Baghdad. Both facilities are reported to have US personnel embedded.

The utilisation of Katyusha rockets is relatively common for a range of militant groups across Iraq, with Soviet-era weaponry readily available as a legacy of past conflicts. The rockets are notoriously unreliable and inaccurate, which would add credence to reports that the housing compound was not the intended target.

Militant groups operating across the country are known to operate with backing from Iran. However, there has been a recent increase in reports suggesting a growing push back against outside influence in the country, be that from Iran or the US. The recent attacks are the latest in a series of strikes against oil infrastructure and US forces in the Middle East in recent months. Only last week, two explosions occurred on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The Saudi Aramco East-West Pipeline was targeted by drones in May, whilst four oil vessels in the Strait of Hormuz- a key transit route for oil and gas- were also attacked. The US has apportioned blame to Iran, which has subsequently led to heightened tensions between the two countries. The most recent attack in Basra comes only days after the US announced it was sending an extra 1,000 troops to the Middle East, recent attacks are predicted to further deteriorate the relations between the US and Iran.