Yemen government says attacks behind power outage

AP News
Posted: Jun 11, 2013 3:14 PM

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Attacks on power lines in Yemen caused a widespread blackout that has left several provinces and the country's capital without electricity for two days, according to a government statement Tuesday.

Yemen is the Arab world's most impoverished nation and experiences daily electricity outages throughout the summer. The most recent outage, which has plunged the capital, Sanaa, and its second largest city, Taiz, into darkness for 48 hours, surpasses the more frequent cuts in electricity that tend to last a few hours at a time.

A statement by the electricity ministry blamed the latest blackout on attacks on power lines in the eastern Marib province.

Provinces in the country's south were also affected by the recent cuts, and thousands of people took to the streets in the city of Aden to protest.

The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, wrote in a report to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that Yemen's electricity problem is causing "misery and anger throughout the country."

"Families are being plunged into darkness and unbearable heat," Benomar wrote of the temperatures that often soar to 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit).

"The interruption of Yemen's energy exports and constant repairs of its electricity lines are costing Yemen hundreds of millions of dollars," he said. "And while the perpetrators of the sabotage are said to be known, impunity prevails. The people of Yemen are demanding justice."

Some officials have said they suspect tribesmen allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh of being behind the attacks in an attempt to undermine the new government.

At least five provinces have been without power because of the attacks. While millions of Yemenis do not have electricity in their homes, those that can afford it have had to rely on generators during the summer months. A natural gas and petroleum shortage has made running the generators difficult and expensive.

Yemen is rife with insecurity, and an active al-Qaida branch in the country is believed to be trying to overrun parts of the south again, as it did during political turmoil in 2011 that led to Saleh's resignation.

The government launched an offensive last week in the province of Hadramawt to try to stop the militants from taking over towns. The United States is believed to have carried out several drone strikes against al-Qaida fighters there in recent months.