CAIRO (Reuters) - Saboteurs blew up the gas pipeline between Egypt, Israel and Jordan on Thursday in Northern Sinai using remote controlled bombs, forcing it to shut down, Egyptian security sources said.
The first blast, the sixth since the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak and the seventh this year, was near Mazar area, 30 km (18 miles) west of the town of Al-Arish, security sources and witnesses said.
Witnesses saw a second, smaller explosion west of Al-Arish near a pumping station, state news agency MENA reported. The report said it was not clear whether any damage was done. The explosions are the first since pumping resumed on October 24.
“Primary examination showed that Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) were put under the pipeline and were detonated from a distance,” a security source told Reuters.
“The attackers used two trucks and extended wires were found at the scene,” he added.
Residents in Al-Arish told Reuters that flames could be seen from the town. Witnesses told MENA security forces and fire fighters had controlled the fire.
The pipeline has been a target for attacks by anonymous saboteurs since the overthrow of Mubarak in February, although the first pipeline attack took place days before he was ousted by an uprising.
Egypt and Israel have signed a 20-year natural gas deal by which Egypt would export gas to its neighbour. The deal was unpopular with the Egyptian public and critics argued the Jewish state had been offered gas at prices that were too low.
A company official from East Mediterranean Gas Co (EMG), which exports Egyptian gas to Israel, had said in July that international shareholders in the firm were pursuing legal claims against Egypt for $8 billion in damages from contract violations in gas supplies. That followed disruptions caused by pipeline attacks.
Egypt doubled the price of gas exported to Jordan last month. The government was under pressure to charge Israel and Jordan more for gas exports because those fixed under Mubarak were seen as below market rates.
Petroleum Minister Abdullah Ghorab said the new price for gas exported to Jordan was just above $5 per million BTU, compared to the previous price of $2.15 to $2.30.
The Egyptian government said this month it would tighten security measures along the pipeline by installing alarm devices and appointing security patrols from local Bedouin tribes.
Previous explosions have closed the pipeline, run by Gasco, Egypt’s gas transport company -- a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS, for weeks.
Reporting by Tamim Elyan, Yusri Mohamed and Dina Zayed; Editing by Louise Ireland