Pipeline Blast Cuts Off Turkey Gas Flow

An explosion on a natural gas pipeline outside an Iranian border city shut down the flow of gas to Turkey, authorities said Friday.

Officials at the Iranian Embassy in Ankara said they believed the explosion was an act of sabotage by separatist Kurdish rebels who are active on both sides of the Iranian-Turkish border.

The explosion Thursday night near the Iranian border city of Bazargan sparked a fire that wasn't brought under control until Friday morning, news reports said.

The private Dogan news agency quoted Turkish truckers as saying they could hear ambulances and fire engines going to the blast site, said to be about half a mile east of the Gurbulak border crossing.

Turkey's state pipeline company, Botas, said the explosion cut gas flow from Iran to Turkey, and it likely would be three to four days before repairs could be done and it was online again.

The Iranian Embassy said Turkey gets about half of its gas supplies from Iran, but Botas said it did not expect any shortages. The company said the cut in Iranian gas would be compensated by supplies from Russia, which are brought in by way of the Blue Stream pipeline underneath the Black Sea.

Earlier there had been confusion over which side of the border the explosion occurred on, with Iranian state media saying the explosion was in Turkey.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the explosion.

Last month, Kurdish guerrillas belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, blew up part of the same pipeline in the Turkish city of Agri, shutting down the flow of gas for four days.

The rebels have sabotaged pipelines in the past as part of their struggle for an autonomous homeland. More than 37,000 people have been killed in Turkey since the rebels took up arms in 1984.

Turkey has been importing natural gas from Iran through the 1,598-mile pipeline since 2001.

In southeastern Turkey, soldiers killed two Kurdish rebels in a rural area, while a Turkish officer was seriously injured after stepping on a mine close to the Iraqi border, news reports said.

The state-run Anatolia news agency cited the Sirnak provincial governor's office as saying the two killed were responsible for the murder of a Turkish military policeman in his home on Aug. 6.

Also Friday, a Turkish captain stepped on a mine planted by the guerrillas, during an anti-rebel offensive on the mountainous border with Iraq, the Dogan news agency reported. The officer was reported to be in serious condition.

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