Monday, May 23, 2011

Yemen Security Forces, Al-Ahmar Tribesmen Clash in Capital

May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Gunmen from Yemen's most influential tribe clashed with security forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital, Sana'a, a day after the president refused to sign an accord requiring him to give up power.

Two tribesmen and one civilian were killed and 27 people injured, according to the opposition Suhail TV and the official media. Gun battles took place at an empty school and in the vicinity of the building that houses the official news agency Saba, state-run Yemen television said. Two journalists in the building were injured, the television reported.

"There are heavy clashes," Farouk al-Kamali, one of the injured journalists said in a telephone interview. "Close to 200 staffers are trapped in the building."

Fire broke out at the offices of Yemenia, the national airline, after gunmen clashed outside, the defense ministry said.

Tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar had been an ally of Saleh. The two fell out after al-Ahmar joined nationwide anti- government protests that began in January. The opposition said in a statement that pro-Saleh forces tried to storm al-Ahmar's house in an attempt to ignite civil war.

The violence broke out a day after Saleh declined to sign an accord requiring him to give up power within 30 days. The six-member Arab Gulf bloc, which had brokered the deal, abandoned its efforts to bring about an end to the unrest.

Third Failure

It was the third time the GCC-led talks had failed, this time in dramatic fashion as helicopters were used to evacuate diplomats, including those from the U.S., E.U. and U.K., from the United Arab Emirates Embassy that had been surrounded by machine-gun wielding Saleh supporters.

The E.U. said in a statement after a meeting in Brussels today that it "condemns President Saleh's repeated failure to sign up to the GCC sponsored initiative." It called on him to follow through on his commitment to transfer power now.

It also said it "deplores" the failure by Saleh and Yemen's security forces to ensure safe passage of the diplomats at the UAE Embassy.

"We believe President Saleh still has the opportunity to sign this initiative and break the deadlock," U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington.

"We've seen all sides agree" to the GCC accord, Toner noted. "President Saleh is the only party who refuses to match his actions to these words."

The U.S. embassy in Sana'a said in a travel warning that it will close the consular section to the public tomorrow and the next day and will provide emergency American citizen services only. The statement said the closure was necessary due to "the fluid security situation in the city."

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