* Explosion caused by sabotage, official says
* Kurdish militants have carried out such attacks in past
* Gazprom increases gas supplies to Turkey
* Turkish energy minister says no problem meeting demand
By Orhan Coskun
ANKARA, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Saboteurs bombed a gas pipeline in eastern Turkey, halting the flow of Iranian gas and causing minor injuries to 28 soldiers, Turkish officials said on Friday.
The overnight attack, less than a week after gas flow was restarted following a previous strike, prompted Russia’s Gazprom to increase its supplies to Turkey to offset the shortfall.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the line would be back in operation soon, but gave no firm timescale.
“Despite the cut in the gas flow, there is no problem in meeting natural gas demand,” Taner told reporters.
“We increased the amount of natural gas which we take from Russia. The damaged line will go back into operation in a short time.”
Gazprom Export said it had met a request from Turkish pipeline operator Botas to increase supply via the underwater Blue Stream pipeline to 48 million cubic metres a day from 32 million.
Turkey is Gazprom’s second-largest natural gas consumer after Germany.
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has claimed responsibility for repeated attacks on pipelines in Turkey in its 28-year-old armed campaign for Kurdish self-governance which has intensified over the last few months.
The soldiers who were hurt were passing in a military vehicle when the blast occurred near the town of Eleskirt, some 250 km (150 miles) west of the Iranian border.
They were treated for minor injuries, burns and smoke inhalation, an official said.
Oil flows have also been halted several times on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline carrying crude to Turkey from Iraq in recent months due to suspected sabotage by the PKK.