Attackers blow up gas pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai

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AL-ARISH: An Egyptian security official says attackers have set off explosives along a gas pipeline in the country’s Sinai peninsula, halting exports to neighboring Israel and Jordan.

The blast that took place Sunday at dawn is the 12th successful attack on the line since the popular uprising that ousted longtime Egyptians leader Hosni Mubarak in February last year.

The official says the attack by presumed Islamist militants caused huge fires, but fire engines put it out hours later. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The latest blast took place in the Massaeed area west of the Mediterranean coastal town of Al-Arish. Gas pumping was stopped after the explosion.

Residents in Al-Arish told Reuters they could see flames from their town. Security forces and fire trucks raced to the scene, witnesses said.

Sources told AFP the attack on the pipeline came the day after an Islamist leader from the area died in his prison cell in Cairo. Interior ministry officials said he died from natural causes.

The mountainous peninsula has seen a surge in lawlessness in the last week. On Friday two Americans were briefly abducted by Bedouin tribesmen in the latest of a series of kidnappings.

Egypt’s 20-year gas deal with Israel, signed in the Mubarak era, is unpopular with some Egyptians, with critics accusing Israel of not paying enough for the gas.

Previous explosions have sometimes led to weeks-long shutdowns along the pipeline, run by Egypt’s gas transport company Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS.

Egypt said in November it would tighten security measures along the pipeline by installing alarm devices and recruiting security patrols from Bedouin tribesmen in the area.

Sinai has long been a restive area, where Bedouins complain of government neglect. It hosts several Red Sea resorts with five-star hotels, but Bedouins say they do not see the benefits.

Egypt doubled the gas price for Jordan in October. Jordan said on Monday it would raise electricity prices as of February to cover the rising burden of imported fuel costs after loss of regular Egyptian gas supplies.

Israel generates 40 percent of its electricity using natural gas, and Egypt provides 43 percent of its gas supplies.

Egyptian gas also covers 80 percent of Jordan’s electricity production demand — 6.8 million cubic meters a day.

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