Yemen army fights tribesmen for blocking oil pipeline repairs

SANAA Fri Jan 3, 2014 9:14am EST

SANAA Jan 3 (Reuters) - Yemeni troops clashed with armed tribesmen blocking repairs to the country's main oil pipeline on Friday and one army officer and a tribal fighter were killed, a local official said.

Tribesmen bombed Yemen's main oil pipeline in Maarib province last month, halting oil flows to the Ras Isa oil terminal on the Red Sea.

"Armed tribesmen prevented repair teams from fixing the oil pipeline and army forces clashed with them. An army colonel and a tribesman were killed in the fighting which is still ongoing," the official told Reuters.

Ten soldiers including the chief of military police and four tribesmen were wounded, he added.

Yemen, which relies on crude exports to finance up to 70 percent of budget spending, has suffered frequent bombings of its main pipeline in recent years.

Disgruntled tribesmen carry out such attacks to pressure the government to provide jobs, settle land disputes, or free relatives from prison.

Such lawlessness is also a global concern - particularly for the United States and its Gulf Arab allies - because of Yemen's strategic position next to oil exporter Saudi Arabia and shipping lanes, and because is home to one of al Qaeda's most active wings.

Before a spate of attacks which began in 2011, the 270-mile Maarib pipeline carried around 110,000 barrels per day to Ras Isa. (Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, Writing by Rania El Gamal, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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