January 12, 2010 / 6:11 PM / 9 years ago

Bomb hits gas line in Russia's south, disruption small

MAKHACHKALA, Russia (Reuters) - A bomb destroyed part of a main gas pipeline in Russia’s Muslim region of Dagestan, but supply disruptions are expected to be minimal, the regional division of Gazprom said.

“Unknown people blew up the Mozdok-Kazimagomed pipeline at its 496th kilometer, causing a fire,” an official from the firm, who declined to be identified, told Reuters by telephone.

The pipeline takes gas from Caspian fields in Azerbaijan to the Russian heartland through the turbulent North Caucasus.

Russia is fighting an escalating Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus, particularly in Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, and President Dmitry Medvedev has called the upsurge in violence the country’s biggest domestic political problem.

Last week a suicide bomb killed seven policemen and wounded 20 in Dagestan, prompting Medvedev to say Moscow would eliminate “bandits” in the North Caucasus.

In Dagestan, a transport hub for oil and gas supplies from neighboring Azerbaijan, explosions on or nearby pipelines happen periodically, often not affecting supplies to Russian cities such as Moscow, as well as Europe.

“It looks like only two big towns in Dagestan will be affected for now,” the Gazprom subsidiary official said.

An unnamed official from Dagestan’s gas transport company told Interfax: “If the information about an explosive device is confirmed, we will start reducing the quantities being supplied.”

Political analysts and rights groups say Russian security forces are effectively at war with Islamist rebels, who want to create a sharia-based, Muslim state across the North Caucasus separate from Russia — a struggle whose foundations were set over 200 years ago.

Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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