Sana’a: Yemen’s army sent on Saturday new reinforcements equipped with armed vehicles and tanks to the Ghail Bin Youmain district a day after the death of 12 soldiers in clashes with local tribesmen blocking repairs of a major oil pipeline in the province of Hadramout.

The soldiers were escorting engineers intending to repair a damaged pipeline that links the Masila oilfields to the Al Dabbah export terminal on the Arabian Sea.

Early on Friday, tribal sources told Gulf News 12 soldiers were killed and at least ten were injured in fierce clashes with Al Humum tribesmen in the oil-rich district of Ghail Bin Youmain.

“Clashes erupted when the Oil Protection Forces tried to use force to repair the pipeline. We killed 12 soldiers and only four of our tribesmen suffered injured,” said Saleh Maula Addawila, the spokesperson of the Hadramout Tribal Alliance told Gulf News. “The army used all kinds of weapons; canons, tanks and even bombed the area,” he said.

Violence in the province has picked up steam since early December when army forces killed Sa’ad Bin Habrish, a powerful tribal leader, and two of his associates. The army initially said that Bin Habrish had links to Al Qaida, then retracted and said that clashes broke out when his bodyguards refused to hand over their weapons.

Bin Habrish’s tribe and other local affiliates formed the Hadramout Tribal Alliance as an umbrella organisation for tribes that seek revenge for their leader’s death.

“We will continue to prevent the army from repairing the pipeline until our demands are met.” Addawila said.

The Alliance’s demands include handing over the soldiers who killed Bin Habrish, taking charge of security in the province, removing army posts from the province’s cities and giving jobs to the local people. Despite government pledges to meet their demands, the tribesmen have imposed a blockade on local oil companies. Masila’s pipeline has also been blown up twice since the beginning of the tribal uprising, forcing oil companies to halt pumping nearly 120,000 barrels per day to Dhabba Terminal in the Arabian Sea.