CAIRO: Attackers set off explosives early Monday along a gas pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that transports fuel to neighboring Israel and Jordan, forcing a shutdown and halting exports, the state news agency MENA reported.
The attack on the pipeline was the second this month and the eighth since the popular uprising that ousted longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. It was the ninth this year.
Abdel-Wahab Mabrouk, the governor of North Sinai province, told MENA that the assailants placed explosives near the town of el-Arish in three separate places along the line that transports natural gas. Two blasts caused huge fires but the third charge did not explode, he said.
According to the report, the main valves at the terminal were immediately turned off and the fire was brought under control, but exports to Jordan and Israel were halted as was the flow of gas to homes and industries in the area.
The news agency carried the account of unidentified Egyptian pipeline guard who said eight masked gunmen arrived in two SUVs, put a gun to his head and forced him to sit by and watch as they placed their explosives. They left about 20 minutes later, releasing the guard, MENA said.
As the blasts went off, the guard ran to inform the police. He was not hurt and there were no other damages since the pipeline runs through a desert area about 6 miles (10 kilometers) off the main road.
Monday’s blast came as Egyptians began voting in their nation’s first parliamentary elections since Mubarak’s ouster, a giant step toward what many in the country hope will be a transition to democracy after decades of dictatorship.
Previous bombings of the pipeline have been blamed on Al-Qaeda-inspired militants who have stepped up activity in the Sinai, taking advantage of a security vacuum caused by scant police forces in the post-Mubarak era.
Two weeks ago, Egyptian security forces launched a campaign against the militants and arrested the leader of the group who was thought to be the mastermind of the pipeline explosions.