- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

NEAR THE KUWAIT-IRAQ BORDER Orange flames could be seen yesterday on the horizon in the direction of the southern Iraqi oil center of Basra, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said three or four oil wells may have been set afire.
Witnesses in Kuwait about eight miles south of the border spotted flickering flames on the horizon after a series of explosions shook buildings in the area and sent farm workers running outside and shouting in alarm.
Reporters traveling with Marines who crossed into Iraq also reported seeing oil wells ablaze.
The Arab satellite television channel Al-Arabiya reported that fires had erupted in Iraq's valuable al-Rumeila field west of Basra and just north of the Kuwaiti border.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the military was seeking additional information.
Associated Press reporter Ross Simpson, embedded with a Marine unit in northern Kuwait, said he was told by a battalion commander that "three oil wells have been torched" in Iraq. He said he had no firsthand confirmation of the report.
Even before the war began, the Pentagon expressed fears that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had planned to sabotage Iraq's oil fields by booby-trapping wells so one person could blow them up.
A loss of oil from Iraq home to the world's second-largest reserves could crimp supplies for importing countries, and deny U.S. and British governments an asset they hope will help pay for postwar efforts.
Oil prices jumped yesterday after reports emerged about the well fires. Earlier, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries had sought to calm oil markets by pledging to maximize output to make up for any disruption in crude exports from Iraq.

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