UPDATE 2-Blast hits Egypt gas pipeline serving Jordan, Israel

Mon Mar 5, 2012 3:07pm EST

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CAIRO, March 5 (Reuters) - An Egyptian pipeline carrying gas to Israel and Jordan was bombed on Monday, the 13th such attack since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011, witnesses said.

The attack on the installation that crosses the increasingly volatile Sinai region occurred in the Massaeed area west of the Mediterranean coastal town of al-Arish, in north Sinai.

Witnesses in al-Arish told Reuters that two blasts were set off within 15 m (yards) of each other using remote-controlled explosive devices.

The bombs were planted by at least six armed men who arrived in two pickup trucks, the witnesses added.

Security in Sinai was relaxed after Mubarak's fall as the police presence thinned out across Egypt.

No group has claimed responsibility for the pipeline attacks.

Egypt's 20-year gas deal with Israel, signed in the Mubarak era, is unpopular with some Egyptians, with critics accusing Israel of not paying enough for the fuel.

Previous explosions sometimes have forced weeks-long shutdowns along the pipeline run by Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS.

Gasco said it had resumed pumping gas to households and industrial factories in al-Arish and began experimental pumping to Jordan and Israel last week.

The pipeline has been shut since an explosion on Feb. 5.

Egypt said in November it would tighten security along the pipeline by installing alarms and recruiting security patrols from Bedouin tribesmen in the area. (Reporting By Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Tamim Elyan; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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