Friday, April 22, 2011

Qaeda, tribes kill 20 Yemen soldiers

Sana'a, Apr 22, 2011 (AFP) — Tribesmen and Al-Qaeda militants killed 22 people, all but two of them soldiers, and captured dozens of others in separate attacks over a 24-hour period, security and tribal sources said on Friday.

"Al-Qaeda militants ambushed a military patrol near Safer (oil fields), in (the eastern province of) Marib, killing 11 soldiers," a security official in Sanaa said. The assailants used machine-guns in Friday's attack.

Also in Marib, two soldiers were killed, two wounded and 30 taken prisoner in a clash with tribesmen, said another security official and a tribal source. Six tribesmen were also wounded.

The tribesmen, armed with anti-aircraft guns, attacked a military convoy trying to open the main Sanaa-Marib road, which the tribes have blocked in protest at local grievances.

Security officials later said unknown gunmen on Friday shot dead a soldier in the restive southern province of Abyan, an Al-Qaeda bastion, raising the army's death toll to 20.

On Thursday, a fierce clash between armed tribesmen and troops of Yemen's elite Republican Guard in the southern province of Lahij left at least six soldiers and two tribesmen dead, security officials said.

The clashes broke out over the army's refusal to redeploy a Republican Guard unit from the mountain village of Labus, according to tribal sources.

Yemen, a deeply tribal country on the Arabian Peninsula, has been the scene of deadly protests since late January calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The protests have led to defections and clashes within the army. But the Republican Guard, headed by Saleh's son, Ahmed, has remained loyal to the embattled president.

Besides anti-regime protests, Yemen has been battling a secessionist movement in the south, a Shiite rebellion in the north and an Al-Qaeda resurgence on its soil.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Saleh's fall or replacement by a weaker leader would pose "a real problem" for Washington's fight against Al-Qaeda.

Protests in Yemen as President Remains Vague on Transition Plan

VOA News

Sana'a, April 22, 2011- Thousands of protesters demonstrated across Yemen on Friday, again demanding the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh who remains vague as to whether he will accept a plan for his leaving office.

In a speech outside the presidential palace in Sana'a, Mr. Saleh said he welcomes efforts of a six-nation Gulf Arab council offering to end anti-government unrest and speed up his leaving office. But Mr. Saleh said any proposals must meet the framework of the constitution.

The president told supporters who waved flags and pictures of him that his government wanted to avoid bloodshed. He rejected what he called an attempted "coup" of freedom and democracy.

Meanwhile, Reuters news says riot police fired into the air to keep pro-and anti-government demonstrators apart in the southern city of Taiz on Friday.

Separately, Yemeni security officials say suspected al-Qaida militants killed at least six soldiers on Friday in attacks in the northeastern province of Marib.

Yemen was battling al-Qaida elements in the country and a separatist rebellion in the south before anti-government unrest erupted earlier this year.

On Thursday, the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council presented Mr. Saleh with a plan that calls for him to transfer power to a deputy, who would then form a unity government within two months.

Under the plan, ruling party members would control half of the unity government, 40 percent would be held by an opposition coalition, with the rest made up of unaffiliated parties.

Mr. Saleh said he welcomes the plan but does not say whether he will abide by it. The president has previously indicated that he will not step down until elections scheduled in 2013.

President Saleh has ruled Yemen for the past 32 years.

Yemen army officers arrested for backing protest

SANAA, Apr 22, 2011(AP) — Authorities in Yemen have moved against military figures who defected from the camp of the country's embattled president to join the opposition, arresting several officers on Friday, according to a military official.

The detentions reflect President Ali Abdullah Saleh's defiance in the face of two months of protests demanding he relinquish power and growing defections by loyalists, tribal allies, ranking government officials and military figures.

The arrests followed a demonstration at al-Anad air base in the southern Lahj province on Tuesday, where dozens of soldiers and airmen joined the calls for the president to step down, said the military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The official, who holds the rank of a colonel, said several senior officers were detained but would not elaborate.

Human rights groups have said that at least 58 activists and opposition supporters have been detained in the past three weeks, including more than 20 protesters who were injured in clashes with police in Sanaa on Saturday.

Lawyer Abdel-Rahman Berman from the HOOD rights group said two women protesters were abducted on Tuesday by female security agents who forced them into a black car without license plates but a government symbol on its rear window.

Meanwhile, opponents and supporters of Yemen's embattled president marched in cities and towns across the nation for rival rallies after Friday prayers.

In the capital Sanaa and elsewhere, hundreds of thousands chanted against Saleh, while renegade military troops made up defectors provided security to the opposition demonstrations.

Outside the presidential palace in Sanaa, a mass crowd of Saleh's supporters carried banners reading: "Friday's Reconciliation."

The demonstrators wore loyalists badges depicting Saleh, or showing the president and his son who runs the Republican Guard, or badges of Saleh and a nephew who commands the special presidential forces.

Rival rallies for and against Saleh have taken place every Friday since massive street protests against his 32 years in power broke out in mid February, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.

In the southern city of Taiz — an opposition hotbed — a massive crowd also gathered Friday to demand Saleh step down.

Reinforcements of Republican Guard units and special forces were deployed in positions overlooking the protest in Sanaa, as well as around the Foreign Ministry and sensitive military headquarters.

Opposition activist Walid al-Ammari said Friday's demonstration, with the participation of huge number of women, was "a message to this ruler (Saleh) to step down immediately without any promises of immunity from trial."

Saleh and the opposition are considering a Gulf Arab nations' proposal to end the country's crisis.

The draft calls on Saleh to hand over power to a successor of his choice and leave within a month, safe from the possibility of prosecution. The opposition wants him to leave immediately and the talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council representatives have failed to break new ground.

Saleh has over the past two months used violence to try to quell the unrest, with his security forces killing nearly 130 protesters so far. He has also offered concessions, including a pledge not to run again for president or allow his son to succeed him, but to no avail.

Yemen's ruling party welcomes GCC-mediated plan for power transition: spokesman

SANAA, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh 's ruling party on Friday welcomed the amended Gulf-mediated initiative of transferring power, saying they will deal with it positively, the spokesman of the ruling party Tarik al-Shami told Xinhua.

"In the framework of the Yemeni Constitution, we will deal positively with the recent Gulf-mediated plan we received on Thursday from the visiting Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani," said al-Shami, the official spokesman of the ruling General People's Congress ( GPC).

"But we reject any coup by the extremist minority of the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP)," he said, adding that "the army and security forces are responsible for preserving the security and stability of our homeland."

Official: Gunmen kill five Yemeni Republican Guards

April 22, 2011

CNN) -- Armed gunmen attacked members of Yemen's Republican Guard on Thursday, killing five soldiers, authorities said.

The guard members were killed in Lahj province in southern Yemen, said a local provincial official who did not want to be named.

Several other guard members were injured.

The soldiers returned fire, killing two of the attackers and wounding four others, the official said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But the attackers are believed to be affiliated with a rebel group that has been fighting for secession from northern Yemen.