By LAURA KASINOF
September 17, 2011
SANA, Yemen — Explosions rocked Yemen’s capital early Saturday morning as clashes broke out between security forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and fighters aligned with opposition tribal leaders.
Simultaneously, security forces attacked the western edge of an antigovernment sit-in at Sana University, a long-running fixture here, around 2 a.m. Eight protesters were wounded by gunfire and shrapnel, said doctors at the field hospital inside the protest area. At least some heavy artillery was used, protesters said. The reason for the attack on the protest was still unclear by Saturday evening.
A clash between government forces and tribesmen loyal to the Ahmar family, Mr. Saleh’s main political rivals, ignited the fighting in the Hasaba neighborhood in northern Sana.
At least eight loud explosions echoed across the city early Saturday morning, while nearly the entire city was left in darkness because electricity had been cut.
An official statement from the office of Sheik Sadiq al-Ahmar, the patriarch of the Ahmar family, accused security forces of shelling the Ahmar compound.
A Yemeni official said that fighting started after the Ahmars brought more tribal fighters into Sana, set up new checkpoints along the road and attacked a police station with rocket-propelled grenades.
“If they are going to have armed tribesmen setting up checkpoints everywhere, violence is going to be the result,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media about the subject. The official said that no members of the security forces were killed in Saturday’s violence, and Mr. Ahmar’s office did not announce any deaths among the tribal fighters.
The conflict between the government and the Ahmars escalated into an all-out war for two weeks in May, after Mr. Saleh reneged on a promise to transfer power.