Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yemen govt loses control of six of the 18 provinces

Dubai, March 29, 2011

Yemen's political crisis deepened on Tuesday as President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to step down in the face of mounting desertions by his supporters and officials said the government had lost control of six of the country's 18 provinces. Saleh told a meeting today that he would not step down as 95% of the Yemenis backed his call for a unified Yemen and instead it should be his opponents, who should leave the country, Al Arabia channel reported.

The President's refusal comes as the death toll in the massive blast and fire at an ammunition plant in south Yemen shot up to 150 and transition of power talks remained stalled.

"95 bodies have been identified and many others were burnt beyond recognition," Mohsin Salem, a local government official in the Abyan province said, adding that the province where the incident had happened has been seized by the al Qaeda cadres.

Yemeni official said, in recent days government forces has abandoned their force across the country, including areas where northern rebels have challenged the military and southern provinces where al Qaeda's Arabian branch has maintained sanctuaries.

The collapse of the authority was acknowledged by the President himself, who told a committee from his political party that "six of the Yemen's 18 provinces had fallen".

Saleh said the country was being ripped apart as he hardened his public stance declaring he would make no more concessions.

The Yemeni strongman, who has been in power for the last 32 years has moved away from a dialogue with opposition mediated by American diplomats and Saudi Arabia.

The opposition parties today released a statement saying that the ammunition factory blast had occurred as Saleh had withdrawn his military and security and allowed al Qaeda armed groups to take over.

The President has also been rebuffed by his long time ally Saudi Arabia and Riyadh has turned down his SoS to send troops to Yemen on the pattern of Bahrain.

Source: Press Trust Of India

INTERVIEW-UPDATE 1-Yemen ports secure,no disruptions from unrest

Mar 29, 2011

* Security at Aden port facilities increased

* Shipping lanes vital for Yemen's imports and exports

By Jonathan Saul

LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) - Yemen's ports are operating normally with no disruptions to shipping despite growing unrest and terminals are secure against attacks, a port adviser told Reuters on Tuesday.

Yemeni protesters demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule said they would insist he leave power soon, blaming him for violence that has raised U.S. fears of chaos that could benefit militants. [ID:nLDE72S111

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, relies heavily on its sea lanes for trade.

"Shipping in all Yemeni ports is operating normally and has not been affected by the protests in Yemen," Roy Facey, port development adviser to the Port of Aden, said in an interview.

"This includes container shipping at Hodeidah and Aden, oil tanker operations, primarily at Aden, general and bulk cargoes at Aden, Hodeidah and Salif, and the growing cargo dhow trade at Aden and dhow operations in Mokha and Mukalla."

Saleh has said Yemen could slide into armed conflict and fragment along regional and tribal lines if he leaves office immediately. Its trade minister said people had begun hoarding basic foodstuffs over fears of an escalation.

"Imports and exports are essential to the economic life of Yemen and, as the ports are separated from the towns by security fences, they are very little affected by protests in the cities," Facey said.

"The scale of protests in the main ports of Aden and Hodeidah has not been sufficient to result in labour not being available to work the cargoes."

Yemen -- the world's 32nd biggest oil exporter and 16th biggest seller of liquefied natural gas (LNG) -- lies at the mouth of a vital shipping route. Oil export terminals in Yemen include Balhaf for LNG and Ash Shihr for oil.

"Security at Ash Shihr and Balhaf is excellent, with very tight procedures in place and strong defences against attack," Facey said.

More than 3 million barrels of oil bound for Europe and the United States are shipped daily through the narrow Bab al-Mandab strait off Yemen's coast.


Facey said a number of companies and public organisations had been reviewing security at port facilities around Aden.

"Several of them have thought it wise to raise their perimeter walls, install razor wire for additional protection from potential problems, increase the number of watchmen and or post armed guards inside the entrance gates," he said.

"The Aden Container Terminals and the terminal at Ma'alla are well secured and protected by staff from the Yemen Coastguard."

He said the coastguard also provided security at Aden Oil Harbour, which is the main export terminal for refined products.

"There is some tension in Aden as people wait and monitor developments in the country, but in general life continues as normal," he said.

Last year the U.S. government warned ships sailing off Yemen's coast of a risk of al Qaeda attacks similar to a suicide bombing of the U.S. warship Cole in 2000 that killed 17 U.S. sailors in Aden's port. Two years later, al Qaeda hit a French tanker in the Gulf of Aden, south of Bab al-Mandab.

Protesters March in Sana'a

Sana'a, Mar 29, 2011More than 20,000 anti government protesters suddenly left Change Square in Sanaa University and started marching Tuesday night. This is the first time they march in more than three weeks.

According to eyewitnesses, protesters said they will march down Siteen Rd., which is the same road to the palace, though it more than 15 km away.

One hour ago, Yemen’s elite Private Security Unit has been deployed to Siteen St. one km away from the Presidential Palace after rumors were heard that protesters are planning a march to the palace.

800 anti riot forces have been deployed to Siteen Road where the protesters are marching.

This was called by some members of the Youth Revolutionist after they felt that negotiations for Saleh leaving office was useless and only made him stronger.

This step comes in reply to President Saleh’s comments on the revolution youth when he said they were very small in number and will not affect his regime. “We want to show Saleh we are still here and have not marched because of us wanting him to leave with dignity and honor,” said one of the youth activists.

Source: Yemen Post

Death toll from Yemen explosion rises to 150

By the CNN Wire Staff

Sana'a, Yemen (CNN) -- The death toll from an explosion Monday at an ammunition factory in southern Yemen has risen to 150, a government official and medical source said Tuesday.

Eighty-five people were injured in the blast in Abyan Province, some critically, said the official, who asked not to be named out of fears for his safety. Eyewitnesses reported that about half of those killed were women and children.

Security officials said Monday that most of the dead and injured were locals who had been ransacking the factory after it was taken over by militants Sunday.

The explosion took place after months of demonstrations targeting Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as a weekend of clashes between government forces and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. People on both sides were killed, security forces said.

Protests were taking place Tuesday in 11 locations throughout the country, with the largest crowds estimated in Taiz province, followed by the capital, Sanaa, witnesses said. Smaller crowds were seen in the provinces of Aden, Hodieda, Abyan, Shabwa, Mahweet, Baitha, Dhamar, Lahj and Hajjah, according to witnesses.

"We will continue for days, weeks and even months if we have to," said Adel Qubati, a youth activist in Taiz. "President Saleh's tricks will only buy him more time, and we will assure that he leaves office in disgrace."

Another young activist, Nofel Abdul Moqni, said, "Every day we stay under the sun protesting makes us stronger."

Saleh has been fighting to hold onto power, arguing that he is best equipped to lead the fight against Islamists.

Yemen has been facing protests from people citing government corruption, a lack of political freedom and high unemployment.

Calls for Saleh's ouster have increased in recent weeks following revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Saleh has ruled since 1978.

Saleh said Sunday he will not offer any more concessions, and he described the opposition as an alliance against the country's majority, according to Saba, Yemen's official news agency. Opposition leaders rejected the president's comments.

The country has been wracked by a Shiite Muslim uprising, a U.S.-aided crackdown on al Qaeda operatives and a looming shortage of water.

Saleh has been a staunch U.S. ally in the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The president has said he accepts opposition demands for constitutional reforms and holding parliamentary elections by the end of the year. Saleh has also promised not to run for president in the next round of elections.

President Saleh Appoints Two Army Commanders

By Fatik Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, Mar 29, 2011- President Ali Abdullah Saleh appointed on Tuesday brigadier-general Ahmed Saeed Mohammed Bin Barek as commander of the Eastern Military Region, commander of Brigade 27th Mika, instead of Gen. Mohamed Ali Mohsen.

Colonel Hussein Saleh Abdullah was appointed as commander of the 15th Infantry Brigade instead of Colonel Thabet Jowas.

The tow decrees came days after the announcement of two commanders joining the youth protesters against President Saleh's regime.