Calm returns to Shabwa following clash between government and Bilharith tribe [Archives:2007/1102/Local News]

November 12 2007

SHABWA, Nov. 9 ) Mediation led by a tribal chieftain in Shabwa on Saturday ended fighting between Yemeni authorities and Bilharith tribesmen regarding a clash between the two sides last Thursday.

The clash, which occurred in Shabwa governorate, located approximately 136 miles southeast of Sana'a, left 19 dead.

Six civilians and 13 soldiers were killed as local Bilharith tribesmen were attempting to pressure Ukrainian oil firm Vikoil to hire its members. Local media reported that Vikoil security personnel attempted to scatter the tribesmen, who were protesting against the oil firm, which had rejected their requests for employment.

According to Governor Mohammed Ali Al-Rowaishan, the clash erupted after Bilharith tribesmen attacked the oil installation. However, a tribal source says it began when a security member attacked a paralyzed man with his hands, causing him to fall from his wheelchair, which led armed tribesmen to fire upon the security personnel.

The tribesmen also attacked three military vehicles and held six soldiers hostage for several hours before finally releasing them due to the mediation.

Details of the meditation weren't revealed, but media sources mention that the Yemeni government paid the Bilharith tribe YR 1.5 million to accept negotiations and calm the situation according to tribal norms.

Vikoil suspended its activities for the past three days; however, it expected to resume operations in the coming days.

Shabwa witnessed violent protests on March 5 when hundreds of Yemeni workers, outraged by the alleged desecration of the Qur'an by a French engineer, destroyed facilities and homes of foreign experts at a large gas-exporting project.