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Syria blackout after alleged 'terrorist' pipeline attack

  • Published at 07:26 am August 24th, 2020
Syria-pipeline blackout
Syrian firefighters putting out a burning pipeline between the areas of Adra and al-Dhamir in the Damascus area on August 24, 2020 AFP

James Jeffrey, the US pointman on Syria, told journalists in Geneva that the US was still looking into who was responsible for the pipeline attack

War-torn Syria's government on Monday blamed a "terrorist" attack on a gas pipeline near Damascus for a nationwide blackout, in the latest such alleged assault on its energy infrastructure.

Caretaker electricity minister Zuhair Kharboutli said a pipeline explosion in the Damascus area late Sunday "led to an electricity blackout across Syria", according to state news agency Sana.

The caretaker oil and mineral resources minister, Ali Ghanem, said the explosion of the gas pipeline, between Adra and Dmeir, was "the result of a terrorist attack," but provided no further details.

James Jeffrey, the US pointman on Syria, told journalists in Geneva that the US was still looking into who was responsible for the pipeline attack.

"But it was almost certainly a strike by ISIS," Jeffrey said, using an acronym for the Islamic State jihadist group. 

Kharboutli said the explosion was the "sixth of its kind on the pipeline in that area," without giving a timeframe.

Sana published pictures of firefighters working to put out a blaze, followed by images a mangled land pipeline missing a large chunk. 

Damascus residents told AFP they woke up on Monday with no electricity in their homes.

Mid-morning, Kharboutli told SANA that power had started to partially return to several provinces and had been restored to parts of central Damascus.

"Power has returned to several vital installations in Damascus including hospitals and some residential neighbourhoods," he said.

The Russia and Iran-backed Damascus government in 2018 expelled the last rebels and jihadists from Dmeir, a town about 40 kilometres northeast of Damascus.

But IS retains a presence in the vast Badia desert east of the town.

Jeffrey on Monday said that: "In Syria, particularly the Badia Desert south of the Euphrates... we're seeing an upsurge of ISIS activity."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not immediately clear who was behind the overnight attack that had caused several explosions between Adra and Dmeir that were so loud they could be heard in Damascus. 

A host of pro-government forces are stationed in the area, said the Britain-based war monitor.

Russian forces are present at the Dmeir military airport, while Iranian forces and allied fighters held positions around the town and on the edge of the Badia desert.

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