KARACHI, Pakistan – Pakistanis faced gas shortages Sunday following a wave of rocket attacks blamed on ethnic militants against pipelines and other natural gas facilities in a remote southern region, officials said.
Thousands of troops have been deployed to hunt for the attackers, who launched hundreds of rockets on Tuesday, hitting the state-run gas plant at Sui in Baluchistan province, the principal source of natural gas for Pakistan’s 150 million people.
Nearly a week of attacks on gas facilities left at least eight civilians and soldiers dead and 35 others wounded, and raised expectations that the military – already battling al Qaeda militants along its northwestern border with Afghanistan – could launch a major operation in Baluchistan as well.
Tribesmen demanding more gas royalties and jobs for locals often target security forces and the Sui gas facilities, but the attacks dramatically intensified amid anger over the alleged gang-rape of a female doctor this month at a hospital owned by a state gas company.
The Baluchistan Liberation Force, a nationalist group, claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks.
Authorities were forced to close one of the main plants at Sui, which lies about 300 miles northeast of the country’s largest city, Karachi.
Gas company officials said households and industrial facilities in different parts of Pakistan were affected, particularly in southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital.
“Definitely, millions of domestic consumers are facing shortage of gas,” Inyat Ullah, a spokesman for the Sui Southern Gas Company which supplies Sindh, told The Associated Press.
He said supplies were suspended to dozens of industrial units, including power generators, and textile and cement factories.
Ali Hussain Quereshi, chief engineer at Sui Northern Gas Company, said supplies also had been cut to dozens of industrial users in eastern Punjab province, while domestic consumers were facing gas shortages because of low gas pressure.
Authorities say engineers are working day and night to repair the plant at Sui but that it will take about a week to restore supplies.
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