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Suspected PKK militants blow up Iran-Turkey gas pipeline

ISTANBUL - Daily News with wires | 7/21/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Suspected members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, blew up a pipeline carrying natural gas from Iran to Turkey, forcing the shutdown of the conduit, officials said Wednesday.

The powerful blast occurred overnight at a section of the pipeline near the eastern district of Doğubeyazıt, in Ağrı province, several kilometers from the Iranian border, a local official told Agence France-Presse, without giving other details.

"The explosion is believed to have been carried out by members of the separatist terrorist organization," Ağrı Governor Ali Yerlikaya said in a written statement.

The outlawed PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms in 1984. The nearly 26-year conflict has claimed 45,000 lives.

Security forces are looking for the perpetrators, the statement by the Ağrı governor said.

Television footage showed a large blaze raging over the pipeline after the blast, which shattered the windows of nearby buildings, Anatolia news agency said.

The explosion cut the flow of Iranian gas, but an official at Turkey's state oil and gas company BOTAŞ ruled out a supply shortage, saying that gas coming via pipelines from Russia and Azerbaijan was enough to meet the country’s needs.

"There is no problem at the moment," she told AFP.

Repairs at the damaged section of the Iranian conduit were expected to take about a week, she said, adding that the fire had been extinguished as of Wednesday morning.

Earlier this month, PKK militants were blamed for another blast that hit a pipeline carrying oil from Iraq in southeastern Turkey.

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