Friday, April 15, 2011

UN: Naval ship in Gulf of Aden ignored distressed Somali migrants' calls for help

By The Associated Press

GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency says 15 Somalis have drowned in the Gulf of Aden after fellow passengers say a passing naval ship ignored their calls for help.

A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Friday the boat carrying 45 Somali refugees sank off the coast of Yemen Wednesday.

Andrej Mahecic says 25 people survived and five are still missing.

He says survivors claim the unidentified ship approached their rickety boat during the three day voyage but ignored their cries.

Mahecic says the UNHCR is calling on boat captains in the pirate and shark-infested gulf to "uphold the longstanding tradition of rescue at sea and helping vessels in distress."

The refugees, from the semiautonomous region of Puntland in northeast Somalia, were trying to get to Yemen.

Eight Anti-Saleh Protesters Wounded in Taiz Province

By Fatik Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, Apr 15, 2011- At least eight protesters were wounded during clashes between anti-and pro government protesters in Yemen's southern province of Taiz.

Local media outlets reported that the clashes took place in wadi Al-Qaedhi when plain clothes government supporters attacked anti-Saleh protesters in their way to Al-Horea Square to participate in a rally against President Saleh.

Source said that more than a dozen protesters were injured by thrown rocks and daggers.

“I swear, we knew that they were going to attack us today,” said Mahmud al-Shaobi, 33, an activist at the Taiz demonstration who said that men dressed in civilian clothes attacked the protesters with rocks and jambiyas, a traditional Yemeni dagger. “But we, the sons of Taiz came to protest anyway,” he said. “And we will keep doing it until Ali Abdullah Saleh leaves.”

Dueling Protests in Yemen Remain Peaceful


April 15, 2011

SANA, Yemen — More than 100,000 protesters returned to the streets of the Yemeni capital Friday, chanting their support both for and against President Ali Abdullah Saleh as he faces growing international pressure to leave office.

In what has become a weekly ritual, Mr. Saleh delivered a speech in front of tens of thousands of supporters following midday prayers. Many of those at the rally carried banners with pro-Saleh slogans or slurs against the political opposition and Al Jazeera. Others climbed to the top of flag poles and waved Saleh posters.

There were clashes reported in the central city of Taiz between plain clothes government supporters and protesters. More than a dozen protesters were injured by thrown rocks and daggers, according to a local doctor.

“I swear, we knew that they were going to attack us today,” said Mahmud al-Shaobi, 33, an activist at the Taiz demonstration who said that men dressed in civilian clothes attacked the protesters with rocks and jambiyas, a traditional Yemeni dagger. “But we, the sons of Taiz came to protest anyway,” he said. “And we will keep doing it until Ali Abdullah Saleh leaves.”

By contrast, the dueling protests in the capital took on a more relaxed — at times, even jovial — feel, a month after government-linked snipers opened fire on antigovernment protesters here, killing 52. The military were notably less present on the streets on Friday than they have been in previous weeks.

Even Mr. Saleh’s tone appeared less defiant in his speech. “The masses of these millions come to these squares to say yes to the constitutional legitimacy, yes to freedom and democracy, yes to Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of this nation,” he said.

But Mr. Saleh also took a jab at his opposition, condemning the antigovernment protest at Sana University for allowing men and women to mix. “I call on them to prevent the mixing on University Avenue which is not approved by Islam,” he said. This new line of attack appeared unlikely to gain much traction among average Yemenis, who do not view the president as particularly devout in his religion.

Antigovernment protesters gathered at their normal place in front of Sana University, about a two miles away from the pro-Saleh rally. As on previous Fridays, the sit-in swelled to tens of thousands, as large portions of Sana’s population participated in the noon prayers.

With protests showing no signs of abating and political stagnation taking hold, Mr. Saleh has watched international support for rule diminish in recent weeks. According to high-ranking Yemeni officials, the United States and the European Union, in conjunction with the regional Gulf Cooperation Council, are working on a plan that would ensure his departure in the months to come and include a transfer of presidential powers to his deputy immediately.

Source: The New York Times

Yemen's tribal leaders call for Saleh's immediate resignation

By Ariel Zirulnick/ April 15, 2011

Yemen's religious and tribal leaders have joined the growing ranks of those demanding the immediate resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In a statement issued late Thursday, they rejected a proposal crafted by the Gulf states' leaders that would have arranged a gradual transfer of power from President Saleh. Instead, they backed a two-week deadline for his resignation made earlier in the day by the political opposition, and added that all of Saleh's relatives should be removed from the country's military and security forces, Al Jazeera reports.

Yemen's tribes have been the wild card in the country's unrest, remaining divided over whether to support Saleh or the protest movement. Saleh is credited with holding the still deeply tribal country together, gaining the tribes' loyalty with money and other forms of patronage. When the protests in Yemen began in February, Saleh turned to the tribal leaders – not ruling party loyalists – for support, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Saleh relied on the tribes to help put down protests in their early weeks, with some of them occupying the city's main square to prevent protests from happening. Now, with more tribal leaders defecting, as well as a key military leader, the number of people Saleh can rely on for assistance is dwindling.

Saleh received a major blow when Sheikh Hussein bin Abdullah al-Ahmar, a leader in one of Yemen's two powerful tribal confederations, resigned from the ruling party in February. His resignation also threatened to disrupt the delicate balance between the tribes, the Monitor wrote.

Because the sheikh is a leading figure within one of Yemen’s two main tribal confederations and a member of one of Yemen’s wealthiest and most powerful families, his resignation and support for antigovernment protesters threaten to increase tensions between Yemen’s tribes, which are divided on whether to support Saleh.... independent political analyst Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani explains that a miscalculation by either the Saleh regime or the al-Ahmar family could lead to civil war. “If either side overestimates its power, there could be war."

If Saleh is overthrown, Yemen's tribal dynamics are likely to be a key factor in determining the nature of the government that replaces him.

The Gulf states, Saudi Arabia in particular, have been struggling to come up with a compromise deal that would keep the country stable but still be acceptable to the protesters. The opposition has so far refused to compromise on their demand for Saleh's immediate removal from office, although defected military leader Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar has welcomed the mediation efforts, according to Al Jazeera.

The Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, are concerned that instability in Yemen could spread and leave a vacuum that the local Al Qaeda franchise could exploit. Reuters reports that Saleh's demand for immunity from prosecution for him and his family is what has held up a deal.

The Gulf initiative calls for Saleh to transfer power to his deputy, but under no specific time frame, and includes immunity for the president that has ruled Yemen for 32 years. Saleh has accepted the deal, according to Al Jazeera.

Yemen's Saleh calls for talks as protests escalate

Mohammed Ghobari and Mohamed Sudam

April 15, 2011

SANAA (Reuters) - Opponents of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped up a campaign to force him out on Friday, but Saleh was defiant as he addressed thousands of supporters and called on the opposition to join talks.

"We call on the opposition to consult their consciences and come to dialogue and reach an agreement for security and stability of the country," Saleh said.

"These crowds are a clear message to those inside and outside the country ... on constitutional legitimacy."

Saleh was capitalizing on the opposition's rejection of a Gulf Arab offer to mediate talks in Riyadh on a transfer of power in the Arabian peninsula state, fearing a trick to keep Saleh in office for any time up to the end of his term in 2013.

Saleh spoke as hundreds of thousands protested against him in Sanaa, Aden and Taiz, tribesmen attacked a power plant and clerics and tribal leaders who were once his allies issued a statement saying he must go now.

"It's only a matter of days before this regime is over. This revolution cannot be defeated. Our aim to bring down corrupt family rule," preacher Abubakr Obaid told thousands of worshippers near Sanaa University, where protesters have been camped out since early February.

Activists distributed leaflets calling on people to stop paying taxes, electricity and other bills to the government in a campaign of civil disobedience to force Saleh out. Strikes in schools and government offices began in the southern city of Aden last week.

Electricity supply was hit in cities including Sanaa, Taiz, Hudaida and Ibb after tribesmen attacked a main power plant, an official said, accusing them of acting on behalf of opposition parties.

Seven protesters were hurt in Taiz when Saleh loyalists opened fire on some of tens of thousands who took to the streets after Friday prayers, witnesses said.

Clerics and tribal chiefs called in their statement for "the dismissal of all his relatives from the military and security apparatus of the state."

Diplomatic sources say talks in recent weeks on resolving the crisis have stalled over Saleh's desire for immunity from prosecution for himself and his family.

A Gulf Arab peace initiative announced this week appeared to give Saleh this, and he accepted the plan the next day.

The statement from the clerics and tribal chiefs stated their "rejection of giving any assurances concerning the bloodletting." At least 116 people have died in protests which security forces have attacked with live fire and tear gas.

Tunisian and Egyptian leaders and their families, brought down in popular uprisings this year, are facing legal action over corruption and the deaths of protesters.


In his short speech to supporters, Saleh called the opposition liars and "bandits" who block roads, and made an appeal to religious sensitivities when he said they should stop the mixing of unrelated men and women among Sanaa protesters.

"I call on them to prevent mixing that is against Islamic sharia law outside Sanaa University," he said.

The loyalists raised banners with slogans such as "the people want Ali Abdullah Saleh."

"The opposition are bandits and saboteurs. They refuse dialogue because they want to take power by coup not by ballot box," said pro-Saleh protester Farid Toshi.

The opposition coalition, which includes the Islamist Islah party, said on Thursday it wanted Saleh to leave office within two weeks.

"We have renewed our emphasis on the need for speeding the process of (Saleh) standing down to within two weeks. Therefore we will not go to Riyadh," said Mohammed al-Mutawakkil, a prominent opposition leader.

Saudi and Western allies of Yemen fear that a prolonged standoff in Yemen, where Saleh has faced two months of protests demanding his overthrow, could ignite clashes between rival military units and cause chaos that would benefit an active al Qaeda wing operating in the poor, mountainous country.

Mutawakkil, however, said the opposition could reach an agreement on granting assurances against prosecution, leaving the timing of a transfer as the major holdup.

Saleh has warned of civil war and the break-up of Yemen if he is forced to step aside before organizing parliamentary and presidential elections over the next year.

Saleh has offered new parliamentary and presidential elections this year as part of political reforms, but says he should stay in power to oversee the change or hand over to what he calls "safe hands."

Even before the start of the protests, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Saleh was struggling to quell a separatist rebellion in the south and cement a truce with Shi'ite Muslim rebels in the north.