September 11, 2011- (AFP)
SANAA — Dissident troops loyal to a Yemeni general who defected to join anti-government protesters have accused the elite Republican Guard of shelling one of their positions in the capital, an officer said.
A dissident officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Sunday that the artillery fire was aimed at raising tensions ahead of a meeting later on Sunday of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the Saudi port city of Jeddah.
"They fired four tank shells at one of our positions," on a main Sanaa boulevard, the officer from the First Armoured Division loyal to dissident General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar told AFP.
"They want to escalate tensions in the capital before the meeting," the officer added.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Sunday's meeting of the six-nation Gulf bloc was expected to address the growing political uncertainty in Yemen and the prospects for a GCC plan for ending the deadlock that has so far been rejected by veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Despite months of protests, Saleh, who has been receiving treatment in neighbouring Saudi Arabia for the past three months for blast wounds he sustained in a bombing at the presidential palace, has so far refused to hand power to his deputy.
The stalemate has led to mounting fears of an all out military confrontation between the Republican Guards, who are under commanded by Saleh's eldest son, Ahmed, and Ahmar's dissident troops.
Last week, the Guards reinforced their presence in the capital, deploying tanks and missile launchers on the hills overlooking it.
At the same time, Ahmar's First Armoured Brigade troops, who are fewer in number and less well-armed, fortified their positions in dissident-held areas of the capital, primarily around University Square where protesters have been camping for months.
Armed civilians have also been seen on both sides of Zubair Street, the dividing line between the areas controlled by government forces and those held by the opposition.