The blast went off around 6 a.m. beneath a stretch of pipeline in al-Fatha, east of Beiji, police said. Leaking oil erupted in flames, and firefighters were still working to extinguish the fire by midmorning, they said.
Beiji - which lies 250 kilometers north of Baghdad - houses northern Iraq 's largest oil refinery, and serves as a key transfer point for crude oil being exported out of Iraq .
The pipe targeted Friday was one of five in a cluster of pipelines that carry a total of about 500,000 barrels of oil daily from the Kirkuk region to Beiji. Crude oil is collected throughout northern Iraq , then processed and purified in Kirkuk before being transported to Beiji for refining.
Attacks on the Kirkuk-Beiji pipeline cluster have been infrequent in recent months, with some 300 U.S. soldiers and more than 2,000 Iraqi troops guarding the zone. American engineers are building a 100-meter wide security zone around the pipeline, with berms, trenches and fences protecting it.
The U.S. military had no immediate comment on Friday's attack.
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