Late this evening, Sinai-based militants again targeted a gas pipeline that transports natural gas in the Sinai. According to al Masry al Youm, the targeted pipeline supplies gas to industrial areas in the Sinai, including a cement factory linked to the Egyptian army. Agence France Presse reported, however, that the targeted pipeline transports gas to Jordan.
It is the third such attack in less than a month. Sinai gas pipelines were attacked on Dec. 31 and more recently on Jan. 17. Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis), the dominant jihadist group in the Sinai, claimed responsibility for the Jan. 17 attack.
“Officials said there were no immediate reports of injuries, but witnesses said thick flames rose into the sky from the spot where the pipeline was struck,” Agence France Presse reported tonight. The latest reported attack took place near el Arish, and ambulances were said to be heading to the site of the explosion.
The pipeline’s gas valves were turned off following the attack, according to state-run MENA.
Tonight’s attack has thus far gone unclaimed. In a recent statement claiming responsibility for a pipeline attack, Ansar Jerusalem warned the army and those cooperating with it that Ansar Jerusalem fighters would continue to target their economic interests.
Since July 3, there have been more than 280 reported attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, most of which were carried out against Egyptian security forces and assets, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. In addition to tonight’s attack, gas pipelines appear to have been attacked only three other times during that period: on July 7, Dec. 31, and Jan. 17. On July 23, Egyptian media outlets reported that a gas pipeline was attacked, but Egypt’s Petroleum Ministry denied the allegations.
Since February 2011, a Sinai gas pipeline that supplied Israel and Jordan with gas has been attacked more than a dozen times. In February 2012, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri lauded “the heroes who blew up the gas pipeline to Israel,” in a message released to jihadist forums.
Approximately five months later, Ansar Jerusalem released a video in which it took responsibility for 13 of the attacks. “[I]f you [the Egyptian government] continue exporting gas to the Zionist enemy [Israel] and continue in your betrayal, then we will resume bombing the pipelines once again, but bigger this time,” an official said in the video, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. In the video, Ansar Jerusalem showed its fighters preparing and planting explosive devices along the gas pipeline, while audio from Zawahiri’s February speech played.
In April 2012, Egypt ended a deal that saw it provide gas to Israel, according to press reports.