Twin blasts hit Egypt gas pipeline

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By Agencies

CAIRO: Two explosions on Monday hit a pipeline which supplies Egyptian gas to Israel and Jordan, marking the 13th such attack in just over a year, security officials said.

Six gunmen in an unmarked vehicle set explosives in two different parts of the pipeline, about 15 meters (yards) apart, one official told AFP.

Witnesses said they heard two separate explosions, causing flames to shoot 20 meters (65 feet) into the air in the Al-Massaeed area, close to the town of El-Arish in north Sinai.

Residents said they could see large plumes of black smoke and fire from as far as50 kilometers (30 miles) away.

Emergency services were at the scene extinguishing the blazes, officials said.
Officials said the attackers buried explosives in the sand in the same area where the pipeline was attacked last month.

The pipeline only resumed operations last week after a similar blast on Feb. 5 shut it down.

Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS, had said that it resumed pumping gas to households and Industrial factories in al-Arish and began experimental pumping to Jordan and Israel last week.

The pipeline, which supplies gas through Sinai and on to Jordan and Israel, had already been attacked 12 times since the uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

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 fuel.

Previous bombings of the pipeline have been blamed on Islamist militants who have stepped up activity in the Sinai, taking advantage of a security vacuum caused by a thin police presence in the post-Mubarak era.

Egypt has been gripped by security-related problems since the uprising. The Sinai peninsula is particularly sensitive because of tensions with the heavily armed Bedouin community living there.

Many goods are smuggled to the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip through the Sinai, which the Israelis also charge is a rear base for militant attacks against its territory.



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