KIRKUK, Iraq - Saboteurs struck Iraq's oil industry twice on Tuesday, blowing up a portion of an oil pipeline linking northern oil fields to Turkey and a pipeline near a major refinery, the head of the Northern Oil Company (NOC) said.
The bomb attack, 140 kilometres (87 miles) south of Kirkuk, slashed the northern fields exports from 450,000 to 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) as the company switched to a smaller pipeline, the NOC director Adel al-Gazzaz said.
The attack on the pipeline to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan at 2:10 pm (1110 GMT) was the first attack on the strategic artery in five weeks, but it did not stop exports.
The new route has a capacity of 300,000 bpd.
Predawn Tuesday, soldiers also discovered a fire on a pipeline north of a refinery in the town of Baiji, US military spokesman Robert Powell said, adding: "The oil pipeline was shut down until the fire is put out and repairs have been made."
Asked about the possible cause of the blast, he said: "I'm sure they are looking in the possibility of an IED (improvised explosive device)."
Iraq is currently producing 2.5 million barrels a day of which 1.8 million barrels is exported from the Basra terminals in the south and a small amount from the north to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
Northern exports only resumed in September after being cut for nearly nine months due to continued sabotage against the pipeline linking the oil fields of Kirkuk in the north to Ceyhan.
Iraq's oil infrastructure, particularly pipelines, has been the target of numerous attacks by insurgents and exports have frequently been halted.