State TV: Blast targets pipeline in Syrian

July 29, 2011, Friday/ 11:12:00

A bomb blast struck an oil pipeline in western Syria on Friday in what Syrian state television described as a "terrorist" attack, saying that a group of "saboteurs" was behind the explosion.

The bombing came as activists said security forces killed at least five people during overnight raids in eastern Syria's Deir el-Zour province and suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

In the oil pipeline blast, the TV said the bombing in the western town of Talkalakh between the cities of Homs and Tartous, near the Tal Hosh dam, left a 33 feet (10 meter) deep crater.

Talkalakh is an opposition stronghold near the border with Lebanon that was overrun by army tank units, security forces and pro-regime gunmen in May after weeks of protests calling for the president's ouster.

Rights activists say around 35 people died in the deadly crackdown and siege of Talkalakh. Thousands of people fled to Lebanon to escape the offensive.

Friday's incident was the second involving Syria's oil pipelines since a revolt against President Bashar Assad's rule erupted nearly five months ago.

A blast and a fire struck a natural gas pipeline in eastern Syria on July 13. Some rights groups said the fire in Deir el-Zour province was an attack but Syria's Oil Ministry denied any explosion and said a fire erupted on a pipeline that was under maintenance.

Syria's oil exports are among the main earners of foreign currency for the government, particularly now that the country's uprising has hit the tourism industry. Last year, tourism accounted for roughly 12 percent of GDP and brought in $8 billion in hard currency.

Syria produces about 350,000 barrels of oil per day as well as natural gas.

The state TV said Friday's "terrorist attack sought to cause oil to leak into the dam's waters in order to damage agricultural crops in the area."

It did not mention any casualties or specific damage to the pipeline and it was not immediately clear if the blast affected oil production.

Meanwhile, Syrians are preparing for massive protests following Friday prayers in what has become a weekly ritual of demonstrations and a brutal crackdown by security forces.

Opposition groups have dubbed the protests Friday "Your silence is killing us," in an attempt to mobilize large sections of the population that have not yet joined the protests, as well as Arab leaders who have remained silent on the crackdown in Syria.

Activists said security forces killed at least five people overnight.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces shot dead three civilians and wounded 12 in Deir el-Zour province on Thursday night, after residents tried to keep the troops away by placing roadblocks and stones in their path.

Last week, Assad had sacked and replaced the governor of Deir el-Zour following massive anti-government demonstrations in the area.

The Observatory also said two people were killed during raids by security forces in a Damascus suburb, near the town of Zabadani.

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