Egyptian security officials have arrested a leading member of an Islamist armed group suspected of being behind attacks on a pipeline supplying gas to Israel and Jordan.
Mohammed al-Teehi of the radical Islamist group Al-Takfeer wal Hijra was arrested during a sweep in the north Sinai town of El-Arish, a security official said.
Teehi was the mastermind of attacks on the gas pipeline and on police stations and installations in North Sinai, the official charged.
On Thursday, two explosions hit the pipeline.
The pipeline, which carries gas through the Sinai and on to Jordan and Israel, had already been attacked six times since former president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February.
Egyptian authorities have on several occasions announced measures to step up protection of the pipeline and try to arrest those behind the attacks.
Army experts have also located and defused a number of other devices targeting the pipeline.
Israel generates 40 percent of its electricity using natural gas, and Egypt provides 43 percent of its supplies of the material.
The deliveries to Israel, agreed under Mubarak who was overthrown on February 11, have come under heavy criticism in Egypt. Mubarak’s government was accused of selling the gas at a low price.
Egypt’s Sinai region is particularly sensitive due to tensions with the Bedouin community living there.
Many goods are smuggled to the Palestinian enclave of Gaza through Sinai, which Israel also charges is used as a rear base for militant attacks against its territory.
The military and police launched a sweeping operation in the peninsula in October to uproot Islamist militants blamed for the attacks on the pipeline and a police station in El-Arish.