Liam Stack
The New York Times
July 4, 2011 - 12:00am

Unknown attackers blew up a strategic natural gas pipeline that runs through Egypt’s rugged Sinai Peninsula to Israel and Jordan on Monday, bringing the flow of gas to a halt for the third time this year.

Security sources described the explosion as “massive” and said it generated “high flames,” although it led to no injuries or damage to nearby buildings.

Saboteurs struck the line at the Bir Abd station in the Sinai town of Negah, west of the provincial capital of El Arish, in a scene reminiscent of two previous attacks in February in April. Each of those attacks resulted in explosions that led the pipeline to shut down for several weeks of repairs and security assessments. The extent of the damage from Monday’s attack was not immediately clear.

“More or less the explosion occurred in a similar scenario to the past two explosions,” said the security official. “We are dealing with the situation now.”

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, although previous acts of sabotage have been blamed on Sinai’s Bedouin population, an economically disadvantaged group that has long complained of discrimination.

Gen. Abdelwahab Mabrouk, the governor of North Sinai Province, said that the explosion cut off the supply of gas to 2,500 homes in the town of El Arish as well as to local factories. He condemned “this act of vandalism” and urged local people to “work together and cooperate with the competent authorities and report any elements that may have been involved in the bombing.”

Egypt’s gas sales to Israel have emerged as a political hot potato in post-Mubarak Egypt, where they are widely seen to have been secured through sweetheart deals with corrupt former officials. Egypt supplies Israel with 40 percent of its natural gas, which is used to produce electricity, and supplies as much as 80 percent of Jordan’s electricity needs as well.


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