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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Recent Attacks in Iraq Suggest a Change in Tactics

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- In a turbulent 12-hour stretch, a pipeline supplying much of Baghdad's water was blown up this weekend, a huge new fire was set off along an oil pipeline, and a mortar attack on a prison left six Iraqis dead and 59 wounded.

The attacks raised new concerns that the insurgents who have been singling out U.S. soldiers may be widening their strikes to include civilian targets and economic sabotage. The explosion at the water pipeline was the work of saboteurs, investigators said, and the fire along the pipeline appeared suspicious as well.

It occurred near the spot in northern Iraq where saboteurs on Friday blew up another part of the pipeline, which carries Iraqi oil into Turkey.

The mortar attack occurred shortly before midnight Saturday at Abu Ghraib, a prison that became notorious during Saddam Hussein's rule for its terrible conditions and for the torture and execution of political prisoners. Some of its current prisoners are suspected of being part of the violent insurgency against U.S. forces by members of the former government.

Shortly before midnight, three mortar shells were fired into the prison compound, where inmates were being held in tents.

Officials said the motives for the mortar attack on the prison Saturday were unknown, as was the identity of the attacker. But they suggested that the shelling, like the sabotage of pipelines, might be part of the larger effort to destabilize Iraq and drive out the Americans.

Samir Shakir Mahmoud Sumaidy, a member of the new Iraqi interim government, the Governing Council, condemned the attack after visiting some of the victims who had been taken to a U.S. military hospital.

"This will certainly not hasten the departure of coalition forces. In fact, it will probably increase the time of their staying here," he said.

The sabotage of the water pipeline was the first such strike against Baghdad's water system, city water engineers said. It happened around 7 a.m. Sunday, when a blue Volkswagen Passat stopped on an overpass near the Nidaa mosque and an explosive was fired at the 2-meter water main in the northern part of Baghdad, said Hayder Muhammad, the chief engineer for the city's water treatment plants.

Instantly, jets of high-pressure water shot into the air and began flooding the roadway below, which links Palestine Street to the Adhamiya neighborhood. The break left residents in about 10 neighborhoods covering a large part of the city with little or no water for most of the day.

"Most of the area will be without water, and now people will start saying the Americans did this," said a bystander, Hissan Baghdadi, 35.

"But it has nothing to do with the Americans at all. It was Iraqis who did this."

The deputy mayor of Baghdad, Faris Abdul Razaq al-Aasam, said workers were trying to restore water as soon as possible.

City engineers warned that there could be some problems for several days.

As the fire at the oil pipeline burned Sunday afternoon in northern Iraq, sending black smoke nearly three miles high northwest of Mosul, occupation officials in Baghdad noted that they had recently signed a contract with a private firm to hire 6,500 guards for Iraq's oil facilities.

After the pipeline was shut down Friday by an explosion and fire, officials said that it would take perhaps two weeks to repair the damage and that the loss of the pipeline was costing Iraq $7 million per day.