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Oil pipeline blown up by gunmen in southeast Yemen

(Xinhua)

11:07, March 31, 2012

ADEN, Yemen, March 30 (Xinhua) -- A group of unidentified assailants blew up a gas pipeline on Friday night in the restive southeastern province of Shabwa, which transports gas from the oil- producing Maarib province to Belhaf port on the Arabian Sea, a security official told Xinhua.

Suspected al-Qaida militants sabotaged the oil pipeline, just a few hours after the U.S. drones raided hideouts of the al-Qaida militants in the insurgents-controlled town of Azzan, 150 kilometres east of Ataq, the provincial capital of Shabwa, the local security official said on condition of anonymity.

Blowing up the oil pipeline was apparently a retaliatory attack by the al-Qaida operatives, the official said.

The official blamed al-Qaida for masterminding the attack, saying that "al-Qaida insurgents have repeatedly attacked Yemen's oil pipelines in Shabwa following any U.S. drone attacks just to take revenge on the Yemeni government."

Local residents near the scene confirmed to Xinhua that they saw smoke rising from the area following the powerful explosion and the fire was still blazing.

Earlier in the day, U.S. drones raided dozens of the al-Qaida fighters travelling in a vehicle in a main road of the al-Qaida seized city of Azzan in Shabwa, killing at least seven terrorists and injuring several others, a security official told Xinhua.

Al-Qaida militants who took advantage of the conflicts in the country have seized several towns in Abyan and Shabwa provinces after severe fighting with government troops backed by U.S. drones.

In January 2009, al-Qaida affiliates in Saudi Arabia and Yemen officially merged and formed Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula ( AQAP).

The group, mainly entrenching itself in Yemen's southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, is on the terrorist list of the United States, which considers it as an increasing threat to its national security.

The AQAP underscores the challenges faced by Yemen's new President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who won support from major Yemeni political forces, the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Hadi is tasked with restoring security and stability to Yemen and putting an end to growing influence of al-Qaida that threatens the daily oil shipping routes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

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