Background unclear: Explosions on gas pipeline in Iran – oil minister speaks of sabotage

In Iran, gas supplies have been interrupted in three provinces following explosions on two pipelines.

Background unclear: Explosions on gas pipeline in Iran – oil minister speaks of sabotage

In Iran, gas supplies have been interrupted in three provinces following explosions on two pipelines. On Wednesday night, "an act of terrorism and sabotage" was committed in two places, the Iranian news agency Shana reported, citing the state gas company NIGC. The explosions damaged pipelines near the city of Borujah in the southwest of the country and near the city of Safashahr in the southern province of Fars. Nobody was injured. Initially, no one claimed responsibility for the alleged attacks.

According to state media, gas supplies were interrupted in at least three provinces due to the explosions: in North Khorastan in the northeast, in Lorestan in the west and in Sanjan in the northwest of Iran. Oil Minister Javad Ovji told state television on Wednesday: "We expected such acts of sabotage around the anniversary of the Iranian revolution and quickly changed the configuration of the transmission network to counter the enemy's goal of causing gas outages in major provinces." The minister referred to the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on February 11, 2011, when a similar act of sabotage occurred. At that time, the gas supply temporarily failed in four regions of the country.

According to the information, there are now outages in villages near the damaged pipeline, which will be resolved during the day.

The explosions occurred in the interior and south of the country, state media reported on Wednesday. According to officials, there were initial indications of sabotage in the southern province of Fars. There was also an explosion on an important gas pipeline in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, about 400 kilometers south of the capital Tehran, the state news agency Irna reported. Flames could therefore be seen for several kilometers. In both cases the fires are under control.

The head of the Center for the National Gas Pipeline Network, Said Aghli, described the incidents as a terrorist attack in an interview with state television. The explosions occurred around 1 a.m. That night, Oil Minister Javad Oji called an emergency meeting with the security services. He also assured that the pipelines would be repaired by the end of the day. "Fortunately, the goals that the enemy was pursuing, a gas cutoff for the country's major provinces, did not materialize," Odzhi told reporters.

Local authorities also suspected sabotage as the reason, state media reported on the current incident. The provinces of Fars, Isfahan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari have been put on high alert. Several Iranian media outlets reported that as a result of the incidents in several provinces on Wednesday, gas supplies to companies and administrations would be interrupted. The national gas company contradicted this and explained that these interruptions had previously been planned for maintenance work. There were initially no further details about the background and cause of the explosions.

The Islamic Republic is repeatedly the target of acts of sabotage. It was only in December that hackers attacked the nationwide payment system at gas stations. Iran's nuclear program has also been the target of sabotage in the past.

The gas and oil pipelines were also repeatedly disrupted. Their infrastructure is considered dilapidated and vulnerable; repairs and renovations are difficult due to the international sanctions against the country. Officials have repeatedly blamed saboteurs for disruptions. This is practically impossible to verify independently. It is also not clear whether there is a connection with Iran's role in the conflicts in the region or with the parliamentary elections in the Islamic Republic scheduled for March 1st. After the violent death of the Kurdish woman Masha Amini in Tehran in September 2022, there were repeated massive protests in the country, which were suppressed by the security forces.

In the past, Iran had also accused its arch-enemy Israel of sabotage in similar cases. Tehran is a key ally of the radical Islamic group Hamas. Following Hamas' unprecedented attack on Israel, the Israeli army is currently conducting a military offensive against the Palestinian organization in the Gaza Strip.