17 killed as Yemen army, tribesmen clash

Updated 28 December 2012
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17 killed as Yemen army, tribesmen clash

SANAA: Yemen’s army Tuesday launched an offensive against tribesmen suspected of repeatedly sabotaging an oil pipeline in east Yemen, sparking clashes which left 17 people dead, tribal sources said.
The dead included 10 tribesmen and seven soldiers, said the sources, who added that the army offensive in Marib province’s Habab valley, 140 kilometers (87 miles) east of the capital Sanaa, was launched in the early hours of the morning and was backed by air raids.
The sources said the army was “randomly shelling” the area where some Al-Qaeda militants joined tribesmen ranks in battling Yemeni troops. Marib is a major Al-Qaeda stronghold in the country.
Tribesmen, of whom 18 were also wounded according to the same sources, fought back with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, one source said.
The army did not immediately confirm the deaths of four soldiers.
According to official figures, lost production due to attacks on the oil pipeline in the east cost the government more than $1 billion dollars in 2012, while oil exports fell by 4.5 percent.
A tribal source told AFP that the offensive was aimed against prominent figure Salah bin Hussein Al-Dammaj, who has allegedly blown up the pipeline several times to pressure the authorities to pay him 100 million riyals ($480,000) in compensation for land he claims was taken from him in Sanaa.
The 320-kilometer (200-mile) pipeline carries oil from Safer oilfields in Marib to an export terminal on the Red Sea. It produces around 180,000 barrels per day.
Attacks on oil and gas pipelines by Al-Qaeda militants or by tribesmen seeking to extract concessions from the central government are common in Yemen.
In July, Petroleum and Minerals Minister Hisham Abdullah said the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country had lost more than $4 billion (3.1 billion euros) in revenues since February 2011 due to the attacks.
Yemen produces about 300,000 barrels of oil a day, most of which is destined for export.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) took advantage of the weakness of Yemen’s central government during an uprising last year against now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, seizing large swathes of territory across the south.
But after a month-long offensive launched in May by Yemeni troops, most militants fled to the more lawless desert regions of the east.
Tribes in Yemen as well as AQAP militants often resort to violence and abducting foreigners to force the government to respond to their demands.
On Friday, two Finns and an Austrian were kidnapped in Sanaa, suspectedly by Al-Qaeda-linked gunmen.
State news agency Saba reported Tuesday that “security services are still carrying out vast search operations to hunt down the abductors and the place where the hostages are held to secure their safe release as soon as possible.”


Lettre to Qatar: Abandon PR, change attitude, and siege would be lifted

Updated 6 sec ago
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Lettre to Qatar: Abandon PR, change attitude, and siege would be lifted

LONDON: Four Arab ambassadors have called on Qatar to improve relations with its neighbors, change its attitude and stop its support for extremism, terror and destabilization in the region.

The four ambassadors of Saudi Arabia (Mohammed bin Nawwa), Bahrain (Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa), the UAE (Suleiman Al-Mazroui) and Egypt (Nasser Kamel) co-wrote a letter published on Wednesday in the Financial Times to answer an FT lead article titled “Qatar siege is meaningless.”

The ambassadors stressed in the letter that their governments had no plans to incorporate Qatar, as the FT claimed, but all they hoped for is that the Doha government committed to the international criteria to fight terrorism and “stop its support for terror and extremism in the region.”

In the letter, the four ambassadors reminded the paper that the prime minister of Qatar attended the wedding of the son of Abdel Rahman Al-Nueimi,who is listed on a US terror list, and is the main conduit to Al-Qaeda in Iraq where, according to the US, he funnelled millions of US dollars to the organization there.

The ambassadors added that Al-Nueimi is one of many sponsors of terror living and working in Qatar.

The ambassadors drew the readers’ attention to Qatar’s “double standard behavior” — saying one thing to the West, and doing the opposite.

They concluded the letter by demonstrating Qatar’s “duplicity.”

They said that Qatar has recently intensified the use of its media and PR to promote and support terror in the Middle East generally and in Saudi Arabia especially.

Recently Qatari broadcasters opened their airwaves to Houthi militia in Yemen and its propaganda calling for attacking Saudi Arabia.

In conclusion the ambassadors called on Doha to quit its public relations campaign and change its attitude — only then would the siege be over.