Northern Oil Company fireman Abd Allah Hamad Ali confirmed the morning attack on Sunday.

  

"The pipeline was only just repaired yesterday, but it has been attacked again." Firemen and police were putting out the blaze, he said.

   

Oil exports from Kirkuk to Turkey have been shut down by incessant attacks.

 

Regular attacks

  

Anti-US fighters also regularly attack pipelines between Kirkuk and Baiji, where oil is processed for domestic and foreign consumption.

  

The petrol industry has been crippled by rotting infrastructure, attacks by anti-US fighters as well as smuggling.

  

The ministry in February estimated its losses at between $7 billion and $8 billion  due to attacks since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003.

  

Iraq, with the second largest oil reserves in the world, relies on its energy resources to keep its economy afloat.