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Militants attack gas pipeline in Egypt's Sinai

By Ashraf Sweilam

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 9 2012 5:10 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 12, 2011 file photo, Egyptian Bedouins watch as smoke and flames rise into the air after masked gunmen blew up a terminal of the Egyptian natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan in el-Arish, in the northern part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, in a predawn attack. Militants on Monday April 9, 2012 again blew up a gas pipeline in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula that transports fuel to neighboring Israel and Jordan, a senior Egyptian security official said. The attack on the pipeline was the 14th time it was targeted since the popular uprising that ousted longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak last year. (AP Photo, File)

The Associated Press

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Militants on Monday blew up a gas pipeline in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula that transports fuel to neighboring Israel and Jordan, a senior Egyptian security official said.

The attack was the 14th on the pipeline since last year's popular uprising that ousted Egypt's longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Previous bombings of the pipeline have been blamed on Islamist militants who have stepped up their activity in Sinai, taking advantage of a security vacuum caused by a thin police presence in the post-Mubarak era.

Northern Sinai security chief Maj. Gen. Saleh al-Masri said Monday's blast hit a section of the pipeline outside the city of el-Arish but did not cause major damage or a fire since the gas flow had been cut following a blast on the pipeline last month.

Al-Masri said the Interior Ministry would send an armored police brigade to guard the area and maintain security because the current number of policemen is not enough to control the vast desert region.

But he said additional army units would still be needed, but because of Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel, reinforcements can only be deployed with Israel's agreement.

The number of Egyptian forces in demilitarized Sinai is regulated by the 1979 accord, which prohibits the deployment of military forces in the section of Sinai bordering Israel, leaving security in that area in the hands of lightly armed police and border guards.

But in August, Egypt — acting with Israeli approval — deployed 2,000 more soldiers and police in the area following a spike in violence.

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