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Much of Syria blacked out by rebel attack on gas pipeline: government

Smoke rises after what activist said was a fire near Damascus International Airport October 23, 2013. REUTERS/Ahmad Alshmi
Smoke rises after what activist said was a fire near Damascus International Airport October 23, 2013. REUTERS/Ahmad Alshmi

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Much of Syria, including the capital Damascus, was hit by a power cut late on Wednesday after rebels attacked a gas pipeline, state media said.

"A terrorist attack on a gas pipeline that feeds a power station in the south has led to a power outage in the provinces and work to repair it is in progress," Electricity Minister Emad Khamis told state news agency SANA.

A resident in the center of Damascus who asked to remain anonymous said "the whole city just went dark" and she could see the glow of a fire near the international airport and hear heavy machinegun fire.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that reports on abuses and battlefield developments using sources on both sides of Syria's civil war, said the explosion was caused by rebel artillery that hit a gas pipeline near the airport.

The Observatory said the rebel shelling was aimed at the town of Ghasula, a few miles (km) from the airport. It said residents of other areas of Syria, including coastal cities in the west and parts of Aleppo province in the north, were also experiencing power cuts.

Rebels have been trying to push into the capital, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since government forces moved to crush a pro-democracy uprising in March 2011. Millions have been displaced in the ensuing civil war.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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