13 killed as Yemen troops quell oil pipeline saboteurs

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At least 13 people were killed in clashes between Yemeni troops and armed tribal saboteurs who blocked access to repairing the country's main oil pipeline, officials said on Saturday.

The clashes began Friday after the tribesmen prevented workers from reaching the damaged section of the pipeline that was blown up two weeks ago in Marib province.

Five soldiers, including a colonel, were killed and eight soldiers and security members, including the chief of the provincial police, were wounded in the overnight confrontation, according to an official of the defense ministry. The army used heavy weapons to quell the saboteurs, killing at least three tribesmen and injuring six others.

Local officials said shells fired by the army hit mistakenly two houses in Wadi Abida, killing four women and a child, and the tribesmen damaged three tanks and four military armored vehicles.

The officials said the technical team managed Saturday to enter the area to repair the damaged pipeline under heavy military protection.

Meanwhile, the government issued a statement carried by official Saba news agency, hailing the military action against the saboteurs and vowing more military campaigns to combat acts of sabotage in the province.

"It's the time to put an end to the acts of sabotage that harm the security and damage the economy and the lives of citizens," it said.

The military action was the second of its kind against tribal saboteurs in the area. Last year, a similar army campaign in the region left dozens dead.

The 272-mile (about 438 km) pipeline carries about 110,000 barrels oil a day from Marib, some 173 km northeast of the capital Sanaa, to the Ras Isa terminal at the Red Sea.

Armed tribesmen have frequently attacked oil pipelines since 2011 to pressure the government to free their relatives from prison or provide jobs to the young people of their tribes.

Oil revenues support more than 70 percent of Yemen's state budget, while oil and gas products account for over 90 percent of the nation's exports.

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