Gunmen launched two attacks on the export pipeline linking Yemen’s eastern oil fields to the Red Sea, sparking a fire and halting oil flow, an official and tribal sources said Wednesday.
Attacks on oil and gas pipelines in Yemen are frequent and are often carried out by heavily armed tribes as a lever to press for the release of jailed relatives.
The latest attacks took place late Tuesday at Al-Hatik, near Wadi Abida in the lawless eastern province of Marib.
The unidentified gunmen damaged one part of the pipeline and then launched a second attack some 500 metres (yards) away, a tribal source told AFP.
“The pipeline was badly damaged in the attack, which was the most serious this year,” an industry official said.
“Technicians have not yet managed to control the fire that broke out in the pipeline, interrupting the flow of oil,” the official added.
The 320 kilometre (200 mile) pipeline links the Safer oilfields to the export terminal in Hodeida province on the coast.
Increased security and surveillance has reduced the number of attacks on Yemen’s oil infrastructure, with the authorities announcing in February they had foiled a plot by suspected Al-Qaeda extremists to strike a refinery in the southern city of Aden.
And last August, Sanaa said it had thwarted an Al-Qaeda plan to storm a Western-run oil terminal and seize the port city of Mukalla overlooking the Arabian Sea.
Poverty-stricken Yemen relies on its limited oil and gas resources for exports that generate much-needed revenues.
The oil ministry said in December that attacks on oil and gas pipelines cost Yemen $4.75 billion in lost revenue between March 2011 and March 2013.
The attack Tuesday comes as Yemen’s army is carrying out a major offensive against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the country’s rugged southern and central provinces, where a wave of US drone strikes killed scores of suspected Al-Qaeda militants last month.