Sana’a: At least 13 people were killed following clashes between the Yemeni army and tribal saboteurs who blocked repairs of the country’s main oil pipeline, officials said on Saturday.

The clashes began on Friday after the tribesmen prevented workers from reaching the damaged section of the pipeline that was blown up two weeks ago in Marib province.

At least five soldiers were killed and eight others including the chief of the provincial police, were injured in the confrontation, according to a defence ministry official. The army used heavy weapons to subdue the tribesmen, killing at least three and injuring six.

The official said shells fired by the army hit two houses in Wadi Abida by mistake, killing four women and a child. The tribesmen damaged three tanks and four armoured vehicles.

A technical team on Saturday managed to enter the area to repair the damaged pipeline under heavy military protection, the official added.

The government, meanwhile, issued a statement hailing the military action against the saboteurs and vowing more such campaigns to combat acts of sabotage in the province.

“It’s the time to put an end to the acts of sabotage that harm the security and damage the economy and the lives of citizens,” the statement said.

The military action was the second of its kind against tribal saboteurs in the area. Last year, a similar army campaign in the region left dozens dead.

The 438-kilometre pipeline carries about 110,000 barrels of oil a day from Marib, 173-kilometre northeast of the capital Sana’a, to the Ras Isa terminal at the Red Sea.

Armed tribesmen have frequently attacked oil pipelines since 2011 to pressure the government to free their relatives from prison or provide jobs to the young people of their tribes.

Oil revenues support more than 70 per cent of Yemen’s state budget while oil and gas products account for over 90 per cent of the nation’s exports.