The attacks suggest a distinct shift in strategy as Iraqi resistance appears to be moving away from attacks on occupying troops towards one of strikes on vital infrastructure.

While hundreds of thousands of residents were affected and areas of the capital flooded by an attack on a water pipeline, fires raging on the oil export pipeline to Turkey is expected to cost the country $7 million a day.

Following a bomb attack two days ago, the US army said it had unconfirmed reports that a second fire was burning near the original oil pipe line blaze.

“The Northern Oil Company is on site to make repairs which are estimated to take at least two weeks to one month,” said army spokeswoman Specialist Nicole Thompson.

But an AFP photographer at the scene earlier on Sunday near Baiji, a town about 200km north of Baghdad that is a vital hub in the network of pipelines, said the flat desert landscape around the blaze was deserted.

The fire stretched several hundred metres along the pipeline, which is buried one metre beneath the surface. A huge black cloud of smoke rose up from the blaze.

Oil sector crippled

The pipeline from Iraq's northern oilfields around Kirkuk to the Turkish terminal of Ceyhan was attacked early Friday when unknown assailants blew up a section near Baiji. The attack came just two days after the key export route was finally reopened following the US-led war that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Iraq, currently exporting 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) from its southern oilfields around the port of Basra, has the world's second largest oil reserves.

But bombings and looting have plagued the oil sector since Saddam was toppled in April, with damage to wells leaving just 150 of 700 in working order, officials have said.

Children cool off in water from a
damaged pipeline in Baghdad

Iraq's top oil official, Thamer Ghadhban, said Saturday the sabotage meant Iraq was now losing about 250,000 bpd.
 
"In the past regime, we had the oil police, the army and the cooperation of the tribes, as well as what we call internal security ... Now all this has disappeared. There is a void in security," he said.

Water supply hit

The damage to a water pipeline in Baghdad caused huge floods in the eastern quarter of the capital and deprived an estimated 300,000 people of running water, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

A rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) hit an open-air section of a pipeline linking the Sabah Missan pumping station with the eastern Baghdad district of Rasafa, said ICRC spokeswoman Nada Dumani.

"We heard an explosion at 0330 GMT and when we arrived on the scene we found a 40-centimetre wide hole in the pipe and water flowing out on to the road and around," said police officer Majid Hamid. Hamid said the cause of the blast was an “explosive placed under the pipe” and not an RPG.

"This explosion has cut the supply of drinking water to most parts of Rasafa and we opened a second pipe to provide water for people who came looking for water with jerry cans," the policeman said.

Some local residents, sweltering in scorching summer temperatures made worse by power cuts stopping air conditioning, were quick to take advantage of the damage, merrily swimming in the improvised pools.