Iraqi insurgents blow up Iraq's key oil pipeline

Insurgents blew up the key oil pipeline in northern Iraq, but oil still flows even through the damaged pipe.

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.