ISIS affiliate suspected in Sinai gas pipeline blast

No human casualties according to Egyptian official.
Friday 25/12/2020
Egyptian military forces on patrol in North Sinai, Egypt. (REUTERS)
Egyptian military forces on patrol in North Sinai, Egypt. (REUTERS)

EL-ARISH, Egypt--An explosion at a key natural gas pipeline in Egypt’s restive northern Sinai Peninsula caused a fire but no human casualties, a senior official said.

North Sinai Governor Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha said the explosion took place late Thursday in el-Arish, the provincial capital. In a statement, he said the explosion will not affect the pipeline’s supply to el-Arish’s residential areas or an industrial zone in central Sinai.

An investigation was underway to determine the cause of the blast, Shousha said.

However, other security officials and eyewitness said militants planted explosives on the pipeline before fleeing the scene. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media, and the eyewitnesses asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.

A similar explosion hit a gas pipeline in northern Sinai last month and was claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group affiliate.

ISIS said militants detonated several explosive devices to damage a pipeline that carries natural gas from Egypt to Israel. The group offered no proof for its claim.

Egypt has for years been battling a terror campaign in northern Sinai that’s now led by the ISIS affiliate. Fighting intensified in 2013, after the military overthrew the country’s elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.

Authorities heavily restrict access to northern Sinai, making it difficult to verify claims related to the fighting.

ISIS has carried out a number of large-scale attacks in Egypt in recent years, mainly targeting members of the security forces and Egypt’s Christian minority.

The ISIS affiliate have been suspected in recent weeks of booby-trapping homes of residents in Egypt’s North Sinai.

More than 15 people have been killed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) since mid-October in villages around Bir al-Abd, in the north-west of the troubled province, say Egyptian security sources.