Underwater bombs damage Syria's offshore oil facilities


DAMASCUS, SYRIA (AP) -- Bombs planted underwater off Syria's coast exploded Monday, damaging oil facilities used to pump oil into one of Syria's two petroleum refineries, state media and the oil minister said.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, the third to target Syria's oil and gas industry in less than a year.

The attack off the coast of Banias was carried out by "terrorists," state news agency SANA said. Banias is on the Mediterranean shoreline in the Tartous province.

Oil minister Ali Ghanem told state TV that the bombs were planted by divers in the facility used to pump oil to the coast. He said the facility is 3 kilometers (2 miles) off the coast and is 23 meters (yards) underwater.

"The aim of the attack is to cease (oil) imports into Syria," Ghanem said, adding the ministry's experts are evaluating and fixing the damage. He said the attack will not stop imports as the ministry had prepared plans in case of such attacks.

Last month, near-simultaneous attacks believed to have been carried out by drones hit three government-run oil and gas installations in central Syria. One of the December attacks targeted the oil refinery in the central city of Homs.

Syria has suffered fuel shortages since last year. Western sanctions have blocked imports, while most Syrian oil fields are controlled by Kurdish-led fighters in the country's east.

In June, sabotage attacks damaged five underwater pipelines off Banias.

Before the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, the country exported around half of the 350,000 barrels of oil it produced per day. Now its production is down to around 24,000 barrels a day, covering only a fraction of domestic needs.