Explosion hits Egypt gas pipeline

Masked assailants blew up the Egyptian pipeline that carries gas to Israel and Jordan today, starting a fire that burned for hours and disrupting the flow of gas, security officials said.

The blast targeted a pumping station about 65 miles south of the Mediterranean coastal city of El-Arish, in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

El-Arish is 30 miles west of Israel's border.

The officials said the attackers, armed with assault rifles, arrived in two pickup trucks without number plates and forced the three security guards on duty to leave before placing the explosives and shooting the pipeline's valves to release gas.

The explosion triggered a blaze that took firefighters at least seven hours to extinguish, they said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said there were no casualties.

Today's blast was the third to hit the strategic pipeline since an uprising overthrew Egypt's long-term leader Hosni Mubarak in February.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion. Disgruntled Bedouin tribesmen in the area have been blamed for attacking the pipeline in the past. Islamists opposed to Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel have also been suspected.