Gunmen blow up Egyptian gas terminal

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Masked gunmen blew up a natural gas terminal near Egypt's border with Israel yesterday, sending flames shooting into the air in the early hours of the morning and forcing the shutdown of the country's gas export pipeline to Israel and Jordan.

It was the second attack in the past month on the el-Sabil terminal near the Sinai peninsula town of El-Arish, 30 miles from Israel. On 27 March, gunmen planted explosives at the terminal, but they failed to detonate.

The flow of gas from the main terminal in Port Said on the Mediterranean coast was shut down to stifle the 65ft flames, cutting gas exports to Israel and Jordan. The fire continued to rage well past dawn. No one has admitted responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on Sinai Bedouins angered by what they see as the neglect of their areas by the central government, or Muslim militants opposed to the export of natural gas to Israel.

"Those who carried out the explosion have harmed the people of Sinai more than any others," said Abdul-Wahab Mabrouk, the governor of North Sinai, while inspecting the site.

He complained that the security situation was still poor and there were not enough police.

A security official said six masked gunmen arrived at the terminal in two pick-up trucks without number plates and overpowered the eight guards on duty before ordering them to leave. They then planted the explosives, said the official.