Saturday, August 6, 2011

Yemeni troops, tribal fighters clash in capital

By AHMED AL-HAJ, August 6, 2011

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Government forces clashed Saturday with supporters of Yemen's most powerful tribe for a second consecutive day in the capital, despite efforts to mediate an end to the fighting.

Heavy gunfire erupted just before sundown in Sanaa's Hassaba district between forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the tribal confederation led by the al-Ahmar clan, witnesses said.

Saleh supporters and fighters loyal to the al-Ahmar clan have been locked in a tense standoff in Sanaa since late May when al-Ahmar's leader sided with protesters calling for Saleh's ouster. That set off a round of fighting in Sanaa's streets that threatened to escalate into all-out war.

The violence Saturday appeared to be a carry-over from brief clashes on Friday, also in the Hassaba neighborhood, where the al-Ahmar residential compound lies.

Three members of the government's elite Republican Guards were wounded Friday, according to a medical official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

An armored vehicle was torched Friday at one of the main district roads, where the Republican Guards have been heavily deployed in recent days.

Airport officials said six planes arriving in Sanaa Friday were diverted to other regional airports apparently because of fear of the fighting in Hassaba, which is on the way to Sanaa international airport.

Also Saturday, Yemen's vice president met with security chiefs to discuss the deteriorating security situation in the country. Vice President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi is in charge of the country's affairs in the absence of Saleh, who is receiving treatment from wounds he sustained during an attack on the presidential compound in June.

Hadi said all parties will be held responsible for any further deterioration in the security situation, and warned of "dire" consequences, according to the official SABA news agency.

In the southern city of Taiz, a hotbed of anti-Saleh protests, Republic Guards shelled the city's northern suburb, killing one civilian and wounding three more, a medical official in the city hospital said. Residents said the troops have taken over a main street in the city center, and asked them to evacuate the area.

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