Sana’a: Yemeni troops have opened fire on dozens of jobless protesters who demonstrated near an oilfield operated by French Total in the southeastern Hadramaut province, wounding 10 people, a local official said.

“Ten demonstrators were injured, two of them seriously,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

Witnesses said troops guarding the facility fired tear gas and live ammunition at the demonstrators who gathered on a road leading to the oilfield carrying banners calling on energy company Total to hire them.

Total has been operating in Yemen since 1987 and has an almost 40 per cent stake in the Balhaf liquid natural gas plant, an investment worth $4.5 billion (Dh 16.52 billion), the country’s biggest.

Yemen produces only about 300,000 barrels of oil a day, most of which is destined for export.

Meanwhile, a bomb hidden under the driver’s seat of a car killed a senior Yemeni intelligence officer in the nation’s capital on Monday, a security official said.

Lt. Col. Mohammad Al Qudami, who was the intelligence chief for one of the sectors of Sana’a, was killed in the blast, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Yemeni security officials are frequent targets for assassination.

Last month, a suicide bomber killed Maj. Gen. Salem Ali Al Quton, a Yemeni army commander who was leading the fight against Al Qaida in the country’s south, while he was travelling in a three-car convoy in the southern city of Aden.

In the south, a group of children accidentally detonated an artillery shell they were playing with, killing one and wounding seven others, officials said.

The officials say the explosion took place on Sunday in the town of Jaar, which was the scene of heavy fighting recently between Al Qaida militants and the army, and the boy died early on Monday.

Landmines laid by Al Qaida fighters and unexploded shells in battlefields have so far killed more than 85 soldiers and civilians around Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, and nearby Jaar since the army recaptured the towns from militants last month.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has high unemployment rates and is suffering from an escalating humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by protests last year that forced veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after more than three decades of rule.

Attacks on oil and gas pipelines by Al Qaida militants or tribesmen seeking to pressure the government into meeting their demands are common.

Al Qaida’s branch in Yemen has exploited the decline in central government control that accompanied the uprising.