AL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — Security officials in Egypt said suspected Islamic militants on Sunday blew up a natural gas pipeline in the restive norther part of Sinai Peninsula.
At least six masked militants planted explosives under the pipeline in the town of Bir al-Abd. It transfers gas to el-Arish, the provincial capital of North Sinai, and a cement factory in central Sinai, the officials said.
The explosion sent thick flames of fire shooting into the sky, and authorities stopped the flow of gas to extinguish the fire, officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to journalists.
No group immediately claimed the attack.
Egypt is battling an Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. The militants have carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and Christians.
They also have targeted gas pipelines between Egypt and both Jordan and Israel regularly since the 2011 uprising that toppled then president Hosni Mubarak.
Israel and Jordan relied on the pipeline to meet its energy needs.
The attacks led to the collapse of a 2005 deal to export Egypt’s natural gas to Israel in 2012. The state-owned Israel Electric Corp had sued the state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas, resulting in a $1.7 billion fine in 2015.
In July last year, Egypt said it reached a deal with the Israel Electric Corp that reduced the fine to $500 million.
In recent years, Israel became a major energy exporter after gas discoveries in the Mediterranean. It signed a $15 billion deal in 2018 to provide Egypt with 64 billion cubic meters of gas over a 10-year period that will help transform both couture into regional energy players.
Reporting by Ashraf Sweilam
Image: In this Tuesday, July 12, 2011 file photo, flames are seen after an explosion went off at a gas terminal in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011 in Al-Arish, Egypt. (AP Photo/Ashraf Swailem, File)