Yemen separatists kill 3 soldiers

SANAA Fri May 28, 2010 2:45pm EDT

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SANAA (Reuters) - Separatists ambushed two convoys of Yemen's armed forces, killing three soldiers and wounding 11 others, the Defense Ministry website said Friday.

Separately, the Yemeni government reached an agreement with the kinsmen of a mediator killed in a pre-dawn air strike earlier this week, after a series of clashes with Yemeni armed forces, a government official told Reuters.

Two soldiers were killed when their vehicle flipped over as separatists ambushed their convoy traveling through the southern province of Raha, the Defense Ministry website said. Eleven others were wounded.

Another vehicle was ambushed by separatists in the southern area of Jebeil Shams, killing one soldier, the website said.

North and South Yemen formally united in 1990 but many in the south, where most of impoverished Yemen's oil facilities are located, complain northerners have used unification to seize their resources and discriminate against them.

Yemen became a major Western security concern after the Yemen-based regional arm of al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.

Western allies and neighboring oil exporter Saudi Arabia fear al Qaeda is exploiting Yemen's instability to recruit and train militants for attacks in the region and beyond.

TRIBAL AGREEMENT

The cash-strapped Yemeni government is almost powerless to meet the needs and demands of most of its people in a heavily armed society that is growing increasingly discontent and sometimes takes its struggles to the street.

In the southern Ma'arib province, the government made a deal with the tribe related to Jaber al-Shabwani, the deputy governor of the southern province.

Tribal sources said the government sent them a gift of compensation for the loss of Shabwani, including 200 machineguns, a land cruiser and 5 million Yemeni rial ($22,830).

The tribal custom ended a conflict with the government. Shabwani's kinsmen previously threatened a "harsh response" if the government did not announce the results of its inquiry into the raid that killed Shabwani and four of his entourage.

Upon hearing of the strike, tribesmen clashed with government forces and attacked an oil pipeline to the capital Sanaa. They are now allowing repairs to the pipeline, a government official said.

(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa; writing by Erika Solomon in Dubai; editing by Michael Roddy)

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