ADEN (AFP) – Suspected Al-Qaeda militants sabotaged an oil pipeline in the southern Yemen province of Shabwa on Tuesday, a security official said, days after US-bound parcel bombs were traced to Yemen.
“Unknown militants placed a roadside bomb under the pipeline” in the town of Al-Shubaykah 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) east of the provincial capital, Ataq, the security official said.
The attack carries the “fingerprints of Al-Qaeda,” he said.
In Ataq, witnesses confirmed seeing smoke columns rise from the area of the explosion.
A local official said that two bombs exploded simultaneously.
Security forces were dispatched to the scene and local official accompanying them told AFP the fire was still blazing.
“We could not approach the pipeline and we are trying to keep people away” from the area, the official said.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said that state-owned Korea National Oil Corporation, which has had interests in Yemen since 2007, operated the 204 kilometre (128 mile) pipeline.
According to local Yemeni officials, the pipeline is a main one built in 1986 to connect the oil field of Aqla to Al-Shubaykah.
The attack came just days after intercepted parcel bombs destined for Chicago synagogues were traced to Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni affiliate of Bin Laden’s network, claimed responsibility for the bomb plot.
Reports of the pipeline attack came hours after Yemeni prosecutors accused radical US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi — who is wanted in the United States for “instigating terrorism” of links to Al-Qaeda and incitement to kill foreigners.
Armed groups have repeatedly attacked Yemen’s oil pipelines in the past, some of them members of tribes disgruntled with the authorities in the impoverished Arabian peninsula country.
On September 13, security forces surprised a group of armed men who tried to blow up a gas pipeline supplying Yemen’s LNG export terminal in Shabwa province.
The 320-kilometre (200-mile) gas pipeline between Marib in eastern Yemen and Balhaf runs through Shabwa, an Al-Qaeda stronghold.
Yemen, which has 259 billion cubic metres of proven natural gas reserves, began exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Balhaf in November last year.
The plant, in which France’s Total is the main shareholder with a 39.6 percent stake, aims to reach a total production capacity of 6.7 million tonnes of LNG a year.
The multi-billion dollar project is a vital new revenue stream for Yemen, the poorest country in the Arabian peninsula, with a small oil production which is declining by about five percent each year.
On June 12, armed men blew up an oil pipeline in Marib province and the authorities blamed Al-Qaeda militants — among them two Saudis.
Earlier, tribal sources had said that tribesmen used a bulldozer to expose the oil pipeline and then blew it up in retaliation for an attack on one of their chiefs accused of harbouring Al-Qaeda operatives.
On June 5, a Yemeni army colonel and two soldiers were killed in an attack on a convoy en route to Safar oil field, in an attack attributed to Al-Qaeda.
And in May tribesmen from Marib carried out two pipeline attacks.