August 16, 2011
Fierce clashes overnight between tribesmen and troops loyal to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh left 23 tribesmen dead, a tribal source said on Tuesday.
"Twenty-three of our fighters were killed in fierce overnight clashes with the Republican Guard," said the source from the Bakil tribe, adding that the worst fighting was concentrated in the area of Sheheb Arhab.
The trouble began last week after the elite Republican Guard, which is led by Saleh's son, Ahmed, installed a checkpoint that allegedly harassed residents of the area that is considered the northeastern gate to Sanaa.
The source said troops chased tribesmen to their villages after few skirmishes, adding that the Republican Guard and the army had recently deployed reinforcements in Arhab, which lies 40 kilometres (25 miles) outside Sanaa.
Tribal sources claimed that the army was planning a war against the Bakil tribe, Yemen's largest confederation of smaller tribes.
But officials have claimed that gunmen belonging to opposition were plotting to take control of a nearby army base and the Sanaa airport.
Dozens were allegedly killed in clashes that erupted late July between armed tribesmen and the army at the nearby Samaa camp which the defence ministry claimed gunmen wanted to control in order to seize the international airport.
Deputy Information Minister Abdo al-Janadi accused Mansur al-Hanaq, a former member of the influential opposition Islamist Al-Islah (Reform) party, of being behind the attack.
A military official said "these armed criminal elements aimed to control the Samaa camp in an attempt to take over Sanaa International airport as part of their plan to overthrow the constitutional legitimacy and seize power by force," according to defence ministry website 26sep.net.
The Republican Guard has been fighting tribes in various regions of Yemen as several of the heavily armed tribesmen sided with protesters demanding the ouster of Saleh since January.
The veteran leader has been under treatment in Saudi Arabia since early June, after he was wounded in a bomb attack on his Sanaa compound.