Yemen army battles tribesmen after new oil pipe attack: official

SANAA Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:23am EST

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SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni troops battled tribesmen who blew up the country's main oil export pipeline again on Wednesday and are preventing it from being fixed, an oil ministry official said.

The pipeline was already out of operation when it was attacked on Wednesday, because engineers have been unable to fix it since it was blown up in two places on November 12.

"The army is clashing with the gunmen who have prevented engineering teams from repairing the pipeline," the official said, without giving any details on casualties during Wednesday's violence.

Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged by Islamist militants or tribesmen since anti-government protests created a power vacuum in 2011, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the already poor country.

The 270-mile pipeline used to carry 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Maarib oil fields in the centre of the country to the Ras Isa main export terminal on the Red Sea.

Its long closure last year forced the country's largest refinery at Aden to shut, leaving the small producer dependent on fuel donations from Saudi Arabia and imports.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, writing by Sami Aboudi, editing by Daniel Fineren)

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