DUBAI/ADEN, (Reuters) – Tribesmen allied with al Qaeda blew up a crude pipeline linking Yemen’s eastern Maarib province to its Red Sea coast on Saturday, days after Yemeni forces descended on the area to root out militants, Al Arabiya TV said.
Oil industry sources in Yemen said the pipeline was badly damaged, and the fire was still not extinguished, but pumping resumed through other parts of the pipeline.
No official figures on losses were immediately available, but one industry source estimated a loss of 10,000 barrels for the day. The pipeline is the only channel transferring crude from Maarib to the Red Sea Terminal for export.
The channel said Yemeni forces, who launched an offensive in the area days ago, were bombing the homes of tribesmen including Nasser Hammad al-Doham suspected of hiding al Qaeda members.
It said there was a security cordon around an area that is home to the tribe of Hassan Abdullah Al Aqili, accused of assassinating two military officials this month.
Al Qaeda members, many of whom are from the area, have forged links with local tribsemen in a bid to establish a support base in Yemen, where government control is weak in many areas outside the capital Sanaa.
Maarib is home to most of Yemen’s oil fields as well as gunmen believed to belong to a resurgent wing of al Qaeda.
On Friday, one person was killed and at least eight wounded in the third day of gun battles between Yemeni forces and suspected al Qaeda militants, the Defence Ministry had said.
Tribal leaders have given higher casualty tolls for the military operation, which was launched on Wednesday in the eastern Maarib province of Wadi Abeida.
The government says it is hunting al Qaeda gunmen suspected of being behind the ambush of a military convoy on Saturday in which a commander and a soldier were killed.