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12 dead in clashes around Yemen oilfield

by Staff Writers
Sanaa (AFP) Nov 8, 2007
Clashes between Yemeni tribesmen and security personnel protecting a Ukrainian oil comany left 12 people dead on Thursday in Shabwa province, east of the capital, a security source said.

"Six civilians and six soldiers died in the clashes which broke out this morning between members of the Al-Harith tribe and an army unit charged with protecting a Ukrainian oil firm," the source told AFP from Shabwa.

The unit's commander Abdullah Alwan and his driver were among the dead, provincial governor Mohammed Ali Rwishan was quoted as saying by the website of the defence ministry newspaper September 26.

Witnesses said that the clashes began when tribesmen, angry that the oil firm had rejected their requests for employment, prevented staff from working.

Armed tribesmen set fire to a military vehicle and held six soldiers hostage for several hours before finally releasing them.

"Tribal leaders were contacted by very senior officials in Sanaa, who gave assurances that they would intervene to end the clashes and settle the problem," a tribal source told AFP.

Defence Minister Mohammad Nasser Ahmad Ali visited the scene after the fighting had ended in the Usailan district of Shabwa province, 480 kilometres (300 miles) from Sanaa, another tribal source said.

Yemen's powerful tribes frequently resort to kidnappings or even violence to give them leverage in disputes with the central government.

Two foreign oil engineers and their local driver were briefly kidnapped by a Yemeni tribe in the southern province of Abyan two months ago in a dispute over a work contract.

In all, more than 200 foreigners have been abducted by tribesmen in Yemen during the past 15 years but all have been released unharmed.

The only foreign hostages to have died in Yemen were three Britons and an Australian seized by Islamist militants who were killed when security forces stormed their hideout in December 1998.

One of the world's poorest nations despite its proximity to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Yemen produces 380,000 barrels of crude a day.

More than half of the production is exported, but Yemen is not a member of the OPEC oil cartel.

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