Assailants blow up Egypt gas pipeline station

CAIRO Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:49am EDT

Flames rise from an Egyptian pipeline distribution station after an attack in the Sinai peninsula July 12, 2011. Saboteurs blew up the distribution station in northern Sinai on Tuesday that supplies natural gas to Israel, the official MENA news agency said. It was the fourth attack on facilities supplying Egyptian gas to Israel this year. REUTERS/Stringer

Flames rise from an Egyptian pipeline distribution station after an attack in the Sinai peninsula July 12, 2011. Saboteurs blew up the distribution station in northern Sinai on Tuesday that supplies natural gas to Israel, the official MENA news agency said. It was the fourth attack on facilities supplying Egyptian gas to Israel this year.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Saboteurs blew up an Egyptian pipeline distribution station in northern Sinai on Tuesday that supplies natural gas to Israel, the official MENA news agency said.

It was the fourth attack on facilities supplying Egyptian gas to Israel this year.

MENA quoted witnesses as saying that the assailants attacked the Al-Tawil security guard before the station, located near the northern town of Al-Arish, was blown up in the early of Tuesday.

The security guard and some members of his family were believed to have been hurt, the agency said, quoting witnesses.

The state's Nile television said flames from the station could be seen up to 20 kms (12 miles) away. It gave no details on the causes of the explosion or the extent of the damage.

MENA said the station pumps gas to another station in an area called Sheikh Zwayed, which exports gas to Israel. The agency earlier reported that the station was used to "export Egyptian gas abroad." Egypt also sells gas to Israel and Jordan among other countries.

Egypt has been trying to renegotiate gas prices with Israel and Jordan after President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down in February, amid charges of corruption stemming from selling gas to Israel at below market prices, among other things.

Israel says it pays market rates.

MENA said the governor of Northern Sinai and the area's security chief arrived on the scene as security forces searched for those responsible.

Fire trucks were trying to contain the flames, MENA said.

Egypt's gas transport company, Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS, has been finalizing repairs on a pipeline that supplies gas to Israel and Egypt, and was expected to complete the work over the weekend,

A security source had said after the blast on July 4 that men in a small truck who were armed with machineguns forced guards at the station to flee, then planted explosive charges.

Previous attacks on the pipeline on April 27 and on February 5 forced its closure for several weeks.

(Reporting by Ahmed Tolba, Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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