Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yemen frees dozens of political prisoners amid unrest

SANAA, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Yemeni security authorities on Wednesday released dozens of anti-government political activists from prisons in nine restive provinces for fears of being stormed by demonstrators.
An official of the Interior Minister told Xinhua that dozens of political activists were released Wednesday from jails in provinces of Aden, Al-Dhalee, Lahj, Abyan, Hadramout, Saada, Al- Jouf, Shabwa and Marib.
He said on condition of anonymity that the authorities late on Tuesday also released about 15 southern activists of the separatist Southern Movement from prisons of Aden and Hadramout.
He added that more jailed activists are set to be released within the next few days. "Decision for their release came for fear that residents might storm jails to free their kinsmen, especially after most of the police units were pulled out due to increasing pro-reform protest movements," he added.
Local residents said the withdrawal of police forces came after a string of deadly clashes with the protest demonstrators that left hundreds of the protesters dead and escalated all out rage against the Yemeni government.
The shootings on March 18 that left 52 protesters died in front of Sanaa University in the capital pushed scores of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's loyalists to join the protesters.
Security sources in Abyan said almost 80 percent of the troubled province have been controlled by the resurgent al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), whose militants seized a large number of heavy weapons, including armored vehicles, following series of clashes with security and military forces over the past week.
The militants also took over many towns in the neighboring oil- rich provinces of Shabwa, Marib and Hadramout, according to local security reports.
In Lahj and Al-Dhalee provinces, south of the country, sporadic clashes took place almost daily as large swath has been run by the separatist Southern Movement.
Elsewhere in the north, Shiite rebels have expanded their control over around 90 percent of the restive northern provinces of Saada and Al-Jouf.
Negotiations between the president and opposition reached a deadlock amid escalating fears that the opposition-backed protesters might march on Friday towards the president's palace in Sanaa to force him to leave.
But a senior government official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that talks for Saleh's leave are going on and his resignation is expected very soon.

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