Middle East News
Blast hits key Egyptian gas pipeline; third since February
Jul 4, 2011, 9:15 GMT
Cairo - A blast on Monday hit an Egyptian pipeline that transports gas to Israel and Jordan - the third such attack since the ouster of president Hosny Mubarak earlier this year.
Authorities halted the flow of gas from the main station to the pipelines that export the gas and transport it eastwards to 2,500 houses in the coastal town of al-Arish and the industrial zone in central Sinai, official media reported.
Masked gunmen carried out the attack at a pumping station at Nagah in the Bir al-Abed region in the northern Sinai Peninsula, witnesses said. No casualties were reported.
Abdel-Wahab Mabrouk, governor of North Sinai, said that a timed bomb had been put under the main pipeline of the station.
A second bomb was defused at the station, an official said.
'The bomb was found in a room located 700 metres from the other room where a fire erupted due to the blast,' said Magdi Tawfik, the chairman of the Egyptian Company for Natural Gases, which operates the pipeline.
He said that the blast had disrupted gas supplies to a power station and two cement plants in al-Arish, according to the official Middle East News Agency.
It was the third time saboteurs caused an explosion at the gas station, cutting supplies to Israel and Jordan. Gas deliveries were only resumed June 10, following the previous blast.
The exports are unpopular in Egypt, which has been sending gas to Israel since 2008 under a 15-year deal with preferential terms.
Six former Egyptian officials, including former petroleum minister Sameh Fahmi, were charged in April with harming the public interest and with corruption related to the deal.
Initial investigations have shown that Monday's explosion was similar to the two previous blasts, a senior security official said.
Chief of security in North Sinai Saleh al-Masri added that six station guards were being probed over negligence of duty.
'They were asleep and woke up when the explosion occurred,' he was quoted as saying by local media.
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