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Gas pipeline explodes in north Sinai

The attack, believed to be an act of terrorism or sabotage, disrupts gas flow and signals that Egypt's unrest could create problems for energy suppliers.

February 05, 2011|By Alexandra Sandels | Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Beirut — An Egyptian pipeline providing gas to Jordan was attacked and set ablaze Saturday near the northern Sinai town of El Arish, media reports said, disrupting gas flow and sending a stern warning to Israel and the world about the volatility of the political upheaval in Egypt.

Other reports said the terminal also provided gas to Israel and Syria.

An unnamed official told Agence France Presse that the attackers used explosives against the pipeline and that the blast had forced authorities to turn off gas supply from a twin pipeline to Israel, located near the Gaza strip.

Other news reports said the explosion had targeted a terminal that transports gas from the Egyptian city of Port Said to Israel, Syria, and Jordan.

Video footage said to be from the incident shows a large fire sending flames and smoke billowing into the sky. Egyptian state TV immediately blamed the blast on terrorists and "unidentified saboteurs."

"Vandalism elements carried out an explosion targeting the international gas station and a main gas pipeline in North Sinai province," reported the pan-Arab Nile News TV.

The report added that firefighters were trying to control the fire and keep it from spreading to residential areas.

The governor in North Sinai, Abd-al-Wahab Mabruk, said the explosion did not result in any human casualties. Even though the pipeline was relatively unimportant, the attack shows how the volatilty in the Middle East right now could affect the region and the world's lifeblood: energy supplies.

Egypt reportedly supplies around 40 percent of Israel's natural gas and only a few months ago a number of Israeli firms signed 20-year contracts worth billions of dollars to import Egyptian gas, according to the Associated Press.

It was not immediately clear whether the attack was linked to the demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak which have rocked the country for the past 11 days. According to media reports, an armed Bedouin group in the area had threatened to blow up the pipeline last year. The Bedouins of North Sinai complain of widespread discrimination and harassment from authorities.

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