SANAA (Reuters) - Attackers blew up Yemen's main oil export pipeline on Friday, halting the flow of crude, an official working for the state-run Safer oil company said, the latest in a series of attacks.
Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged by insurgents and tribesmen, especially since anti-government protests created a power vacuum in 2011, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the impoverished country.
Yemen's stability is a priority for the United States and its Gulf Arab allies because of its strategic position next to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and shipping lanes, and because is home to one of al Qaeda's most active wings.
"Subversive elements" had blown up the pipeline linking the al-Hawi Wadi Abida production field in the central Marib province to the Red Sea on Friday morning, the Safer official told Reuters, declining to be identified.
The blast had halted crude flows to the Ras Isa terminal but pumping would resume once the pipeline had been repaired, he added.
"The pipeline burst into flames immediately after the explosion," a witness said.
The last in a spate of attacks on the pipeline was in January, when production was halted for one day. In December, Yemen said oil was being pumped through the pipeline at a rate of around 70,000 barrels per day (bpd).
The pipeline used to carry around 110,000 bpd of Marib light crude to Ras Isa.
A long closure of the line last year forced Yemen'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 Raissa Kasolowsky, editing by William Hardy