Yemen tribal leader killed at opposition protest

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 10:58 AM
Yemen tribal leader killed at opposition protest

SANAA (Reuters) - A Yemeni tribal leader was killed in clashes that broke out Tuesday between protesters demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters, a local official said.

Naji Nasm, who backed the Islamist opposition Islah (Reform) party, was shot dead during a demonstration in the northern al-Jawf province, the official told Reuters.

The impoverished Arabian Peninsula state has been rocked by weeks of demonstrations that have undermined Saleh's 32-year grip on power, with both pro- and anti-government factions appearing to resort increasingly to violence in the struggle.

At least eight demonstrators and three soldiers have died since Saturday, raising the death toll from unrest to almost 40.

The United States, which has long seen Saleh as a bulwark against a dynamic al Qaeda wing based in Yemen, has condemned the bloodshed and backed the right to peaceful protest. But it has also insisted only dialogue can end the political crisis.

In the central province of Maarib, tribesmen prevented technicians from repairing an oil pipeline that was damaged in an attack Monday, officials told Reuters.

Austrian energy group OMV said it would not be able to transport oil through the export pipeline for the next few days. OMV usually gets 6,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day from the Haban oilfield in the center of the country.

Tribal sources said kinsmen of a Yemeni mediator, who was killed last year in an errant airstrike targeting al Qaeda, were behind the attack on the pipeline, which has been repeatedly targeted in recent months.

Jaber al-Shabwani, who had been trying to persuade members of al Qaeda to surrender, died when his car blew up in a strike blamed on a U.S. drone.

Several oil and gas fields operated by international companies are located in the mountainous province. Tribesmen have previously attacked pipelines that ferry crude from Maarib, east of the capital Sanaa, to the Red Sea coast.

The pipeline attack did not appear to be directly related to the anti-government demonstrations.

(Reporting by Mohammed Sudam and Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Crispian Balmer)