An explosion and subsequent fire have shut down a pipeline that carries about a quarter of Iraq's oil exports, an official has said.
The blast, which occured late on Friday, hit a section of a pipeline that takes oil from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk to Turkey's Mediterranean port city of Ceyhan, said an energy ministry official. No one was hurt in the explosion.
A second pipeline that runs parallel was not damaged, but was also briefly shut down as a precaution, the official said.
The two lines carry about 25m tonnes of crude oil a year.
Firefighters put out the blaze by Saturday afternoon, the official said, adding that repairs to the pipeline were about to begin. It was not clear when oil flows to Ceyhan would resume.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of government rules, said the cause of the blast was under investigation but was most likely the result of sabotage.
The fire broke out at 11pm local time (21:00 GMT) on Friday near the town of Midyat in Mardin province, near the Syrian border.
Officials blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish separatist group that has claimed
responsibility for past attacks on the 960-km (600-mile) pipeline.
Firat News, a website with ties to the PKK, also said the outlawed group was behind the attack.
Kurdish rebels, fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey, have bombed the pipeline before, cutting oil flows from Iraq for days.
Turkish authorities blamed the blast on the Kurdistan Workers Party, a separatist group that has claimed responsibility for past attacks on the 960km pipeline.
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|William A. Cook|