SANAA - The Yemeni army launched an assault on Sunday using tanks and rockets on tribesmen blocking repairs to the country's main oil export pipeline, tribal sources said.
Earlier this month, the military launched a major offensive against tribesmen suspected of repeatedly blowing up the Maarib pipeline and attacking power lines. At least 17 soldiers were killed in an ambush by suspected al-Qaida militants.
Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have repeatedly been sabotaged by insurgents or disgruntled tribesmen since anti-government protests created a power vacuum in 2011, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the impoverished country.
Yemen's stability is a priority for the United States and its Gulf Arab allies because of its strategic position next to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and shipping lanes, and because it is home to one of the most active wings of al-Qaida.
A US-backed military offensive has driven the militants out of areas they seized in the south last year but has not prevented them from launching attacks that have dealt damaging blows to the army and security apparatus.