By Mohammed Mukhashaf
ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - Islamist militants have claimed responsibility for blowing up an oil pipeline in Yemen late on Monday, the second such attack in four days launched in revenge for a U.S. drone strike that killed five suspected al Qaeda militants.
Monday's blast set fire to a pipeline that transports oil from the southern province of Shabwa to the Bir Ali terminal on the Gulf of Aden, an industry official said. Friday's explosion, which, shut the Yemen LNG terminal at the nearby Balhaf port, came hours after the missile strike on the militants' car.
Ansar al-Sharia, an armed group affiliated to Qaeda, said in a text message on Tuesday that the latest pipeline explosion was part of "a chain of attacks" planned in response to the U.S. strike.
Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged since anti-government protests last year created a power vacuum that militants have exploited. Al Qaeda has strengthened its hold on southern areas of the country after the uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Yemen is only a small crude oil producer but it has the capacity to supply up to 6.7 million metric tonnes (7.3 million tons) of LNG a year. Yemen LNG, one of the world's top 20 liquefied gas suppliers, shipped most of its production to Asia the latest available data shows, with the rest going to the Americas and Europe. The company delivers under long term contracts to GDF Suez, Total and Korea Gas Corp.
Map of Yemen energy http://link.reuters.com/kyt62s
In the capital, Sanaa, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Tuesday met with a military committee tasked with restructuring the armed forces, which is riven with divisions between units controlled by Saleh's relatives, those of a rebel general, and tribal militias in the capital.
The committee has struggled to enforce the dismantling of checkpoints erected in Sanaa by renegade general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and pro-Saleh troops and open fighting broke out in the capital last year between armed factions.
"The committee still has certain tasks that it has to fulfill to achieve stability, open roads that are being closed and protect power plants and oil and gas pipelines," Hadi said on Tuesday, according to state news agency, Saba.
In a separate incident, security forces defused a bomb near a police station in Aden's Mansoura neighborhood, a security official told Reuters, without giving further details.
(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf; additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Sanaa; Writing by Mahmoud Habboush; Editing by Daniel Fineren and Ben Harding)