SANAA Dec 2 The Yemeni army launched a major
assault on Sunday on tribesmen suspected of repeatedly blowing
up the main oil export pipeline and attacking power lines,
The officials said some 30 tanks and other armoured vehicles
were participating in the offensive against tribal fighters in
the Wadi Obaida area of the central oil-producing province of
"The army is shelling areas containing armed men who blew up
the oil pipeline and power lines in Maarib, " a security source
said, adding that some houses had been destroyed.
The fighters are said to be using infrastructure sabotage to
press the government for handouts and the release of jailed
Yemen has been struggling to restore normality after
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was elected in February
following a year of protests that forced his predecessor Ali
Abdullah Saleh to step down after 33 years in power.
Restoring stability is a priority for the United States and
its Gulf allies because of Yemen's strategic position next to
top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes, and
because it is home to a major wing of al Qaeda.
But armed groups have repeatedly sabotaged government
installations, especially oil and gas pipelines and power
The last attack came on Saturday, half an hour after
engineers completed repairs to one of at least three ruptures in
the pipeline which transports crude oil from Maarib to the Ras
Isa export facility on the Red Sea.
On Sunday, gunmen opened fire on a power station in the
Damashqa area of Maarib, putting the facility out of action.
Fighters have also repeatedly targeted Yemen's gas pipeline,
which feeds the country's only liquefied natural gas (LNG)
terminal, a main source of state revenue, forcing the government
to deploy troops to protect it.
The demands of the tribesmen are said to include government
handouts or the release of relatives jailed for common crimes,
attacking security forces or associating with al Qaeda.
"Those who carry out these attacks are individuals, but they
seek refuge and protection from their tribes," a Yemeni cabinet
minister told Reuters.
"They are often demanding financial compensation or the
release of relatives jailed for criminal offences."
Yemeni officials say that under Saleh, the Yemeni government
paid tribesmen monthly protection money to refrain from
attacking power lines and the oil pipeline.
Hadi made some payments after he came to power but then
Yemen has been struggling to finance its daily needs. Donors
have pledged a total of $8 billion to help the poorest Arab
country overcome financial challenges. But little has trickled
into Yemen so far.
Some 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty
line of $2 per day. Yemen relies on revenues from e nergy sales
for 60 percent of its income.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; writing by Sami Aboudi; editing
by Angus McDowall and Andrew Roche)