News24

Militants blow up Yemen gas pipeline again

2012-05-14 09:57

Sanaa - Suspected Islamist militants blew up a gas pipeline in eastern Yemen on Monday for the third time in recent months as the government ratcheted up its campaign against al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in the south.

The latest attack will likely delay plans to resume LNG output which had been halted by another attack in April claimed by Islamist militants.

The $4.5bn Yemen LNG project has two production trains with a combined capacity of 6.7 million tons per year, supplying mainly to Asia, and then to Europe and Americas.

"The explosion took place at 03:00 this morning in a desert area in Shabwa governorate," said a Yemen LNG employee, adding it would now take weeks for output to be restarted.

"We immediately suspect al-Qaeda as they claimed responsibility for the last two attacks on the pipeline," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On 30 March, the same gas pipeline was blown up in retaliation for the killing of five Islamist militants in a US drone strike.

Sabotage

Residents said flames could be seen from several kilometres away. The militants exchanged gunfire with an army brigade charged with guarding the pipeline following the blast, a local security official in Shabwa said.

Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged since anti-government protests broke out in January 2011. Since then, militants have exploited weak central government control to seize swathes of territory and several towns.

US President Barack Obama's counter-terrorism adviser flew to Yemen on Sunday, coinciding with a fresh offensive against militants in the south after Washington said it had foiled a plot by al-Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate to blow up an airliner.

The pipeline transports LNG from Maarib to an export facility at Balhaf. The export terminal opened in 2009 and is led by French oil major Total with three South Korea companies holding stakes.

Meanwhile, troops and aircraft attacked militant bases in southern Yemen to take back territory from insurgents linked to al-Qaeda, killing dozens, Sapa reported.

Accounts of the death toll varied. Abu Dhabi-based The National newspaper said 30 suspected militants were killed in the air and artillery strikes on Sunday in al-Hurur just outside Jaar in Abyan province.

Militant posts captured

Twelve troops were killed in fighting in and around the provincial capital, Zinjibar, said the report, which cited military officials.

CNN, citing security officials, said 24 suspected militants and four soldiers were killed on Sunday in the push in Abyan's Zinjibar and Jaar districts. Nine troops were wounded, they were quoted as saying.

On Saturday, 25 suspected militants were killed in Yemeni ground attacks in Abyan and airstrikes by US drones in the provinces of Marib and Shabwa, south-east of Sana'a, the military said.

A security official told CNN that the latest offensive on Sunday captured a number of militant posts near Jaar.

"Al-Qaeda fighters are evacuating areas previously under their control due to the intensive government bombardment," the official was quoted as saying.