Thursday, April 28, 2011

One separatist, two soldiers killed in clashes in south Yemen

April 28, 2011
At least one separatist gunman and two soldiers were killed and dozens others from both sides injured in clashes between the army forces and separatist groups in Yemen's southern port city of Aden on Wednesday, a provincial security official said.
Armed clashes broke out in al-Arish district, eastern Aden, between separatist gunmen who blocked roads with burning tires and tried to enforce a civil disobedience and military forces, killing two soldiers.
One separatist gunman was also shot dead, the official told Xinhua, who asked to remain anonymous.
"Those armed men do not demand the departure of the president by peaceful ways, they call for separation," Najeeb Saleh, a youth activist said.
Local residents said gunshots and heavy fire could still be heard in al-Arih area.
Yemen's northern and southern parts were unified in 1990 according to a deal between the People's General Congress and the Yemeni Socialist Party. However, the deal fell apart, leading to a crisis between the two allies, which developed into a civil war in 1994.
Nowadays, voices rise in south Yemen where secessionist sentiments are simmering, calling for disengagement from the north and the restoration of the southern state.
Yemen has faced political crisis ignited by opposition-backed street protests since mid February, which undermined the security and stability of the country.

US Embassy Statement on April 27 Events


April 28, 2011

The U.S. Embassy is distressed by the violence, April 27, that killed and injured hundreds of Yemeni citizens. It is especially disturbing that the violence took place on the eve of signing an historic agreement between the Government and the Joint Meeting Parties that will achieve through peaceful, democratic, and Constitutional means a transition of authority leading to new Presidential elections in July 2011.

The Embassy urges Yemeni citizens to demonstrate their commitment to this peaceful transition by avoiding all provocative demonstrations, marches, and speeches in the coming days and to welcome this opportunity to lay the foundation of a strong, peaceful, prosperous Yemen for the future. We also urge government security forces to refrain from using violence against demonstrators.

Yemeni ruling party, opposition trade accusation of trying to abort Gulf plan

SANAA, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Yemeni defected Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar condemned Thursday Yemeni authority's Wednesday attack against protesters in Sanaa which killed at least 12, accusing President Ali Abdullah Saleh of attempting to abort the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)'s power-transfer plan.

"We condemned the deliberate attacks on the peaceful young protesters," al-Ahmar, who is the half brother of President Saleh and commander of the Northwest Military Area, said in a statement published by key opposition media outlets.

"We hold President Saleh full responsible for a string of attacks in the past three months against armless protesters, including the assaults in Sanaa, Taiz and Aden on Wednesday," he said.

"By this, President Saleh has been seeking to drag the military and security forces into full-armed confrontation in a bid to abort the initiative brokered recently by the foreign ministers of the GCC," he said.

Commander al-Ahmar, who defected along with thousands of officers and soldiers from Saleh's regime late last month and joined the youth-led street protesters demanding Saleh to immediately leave office, accused the president of misleading the Yemeni people and GCC leaders by announcing his acceptance to the GCC plan.

Meanwhile, Saleh's ruling party on Thursday blamed the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) for Wednesday's clashes, accusing the leaders of the JMP of intentionally escalating violence against government supporters and police forces to violate the GCC plan.

"The JMP's leaders aim to make more demonstrators killed in deadly clashes through committing such violent acts and chaos in a bid to fail the GCC plan that proposed to solve the political standoff in Yemen," the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) said in a statement published by the official Saba news agency.

The GCC accused the "protest elements of the JMP stormed the camping square of the pro-government demonstrators and attacked them with live ammunition and bombs, with the support of defected military troops of the dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar."

"They wounded 300 pro-government demonstrators," the GPC said.

On Wednesday, Saba reported that GCC foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting on Sunday in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, to prepare for convening Yemeni rivals to sign a power-transfer deal, which was accepted by Yemeni ruling party and opposition.

Yemen has witnessed three-month-long anti-government protests that demand an immediate end to the 33-year rule of Saleh, undermining the security and stability of the country.

Yemen's Crisis: Opposition Splits from the Street

By Erik Stier

On Tuesday, when Yemen's opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), agreed to a weekend initiative that offered immunity to President Ali Abdullah Saleh in exchange for his resignation in 30 days, street protesters throughout the country were enraged. The way the mostly young activists of the demonstrations saw it, their grassroots movement was being usurped and their voices drowned out. "They think they can end this without us," said Mohammad Al-Sayadi, a demonstrator in Sana'a, "but they're mistaken."

On Wednesday, thousands of protesters staged a march to oppose the initiative, streaming towards the state television building, a long-contested area in a city where army brigades that had defected from the regime traded fire with government troops just weeks ago. Along the path was a stadium that had for months been a campground for Saleh supporters bused in from out-of-town. It was no surprise when the march was met by Kalashnikov-wielding loyalists. (See scenes from Yemen.)

At least 10 were killed in the melee, according to doctors on the scene, making it the capital's bloodiest battle since March 18, when 52 people were gunned down by snipers just after Friday prayers. Dozens more were injured in Wednesday's gunfire, some critically. "They were ready by the time we arrived — on the streets, on rooftops, inside buildings," says Sadeq Abdel Hudaima, 27, a demonstrator laid up in a field hospital. Three bullets had been removed from his leg.

Yemen's protesters are no strangers to violence. At least 130 have been killed since calls for Saleh's resignation began in January. Demonstrators know well that every time they march, they are almost guaranteed to encounter violence. "We're going to show the world who Ali Abdullah Saleh really is," says Salah al-Sharify, a youth organizer who has been injured in marches on numerous occasions. "And if the JMP wants to join Saleh and become part of his government, these deaths will be on their hands too." (See "Yemen in Crisis: Last Impasse Before the Storm?")

In addition to rejecting the immunity offer, protesters continue to harbor a deep distrust of Saleh's regime. They are appalled that the initiative gives the president 30 days to hand in his resignation, believing that it is tantamount to letting him stay indefinitely. Indeed, according to the initiative, Saleh's resignation must be accepted by the parliament; and, at the moment, the President's General People's Congress party has a majority in that body.

Amid Wednesday's chaos, with the injured pouring into a mosque-turned-hospital by way of ambulance, taxi, and motorcycle, protesters were already talking about further escalation. A speaker on the protest's center stage called out for a march on the presidential palace, the most heavily fortified section of the capital, to take place after prayers on Friday. Thousands in the crowd beneath him cheered. "Martyrs are loved by God," they shouted. (See "Saleh: The President Who Cried 'Al-Qaeda.'")

There's a new urgency to Yemen's protest movement, and with reason — on Sunday May 1, representatives from the government and opposition are slated to meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to finalize the initiative, which was sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council and endorsed by the U.S. and E.U. Whether a sudden increase in violence will derail the deal remains unclear, but according to analysts, it could present an opportunity for either side to back out of an unpopular proposal. "There are factions within both the JMP and the regime that feel that the military option is in their interest, that they can gain much more through violence than they could by going down the democratic path," says Abdul Ghani Al-Iryani, a Sana'a based independent political analyst. "If a pretext for violence is given to those who want to undermine the initiative, they're going to take it. And as soon as the real shooting starts, the possibility of a peaceful transfer becomes impossible."

The threat of widespread violence has loomed large ever since Saleh's longtime ally Major General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar defected from the regime a month ago and pledged his troops to support demonstrators. The president responded with a series of sharp references to the prospect of civil war, and mere hours before accepting the GCC proposal, accused the JMP of pushing the country closer to the brink. (See TIME's video on volatile Yemen.)

But now that both Saleh and the JMP have publicly accepted the deal, withdrawal could create a backlash in the international community, which has a vested interest in returning a semblance of stability to the frail nation. Yemen is home to the region's most active al-Qaeda franchise, and is a focal point of U.S. counterterrorism efforts. More likely to sway political leadership than U.S. coaxing, however, is GCC leader Saudi Arabia, Yemen's largest aid donor and the only country to contribute direct budgetary assistance to Sana'a. Whoever ends up leading Yemen will need support from its northern neighbor.

Neither the government nor the JMP have indicated that they're stepping back from the deal yet, but given the capricious nature of the country's political leadership, a resolution to Yemen's crisis could still be a long way off.

Yemen opposition warns bloodshed may derail deal


SANAA, Apr 28, 2011- Yemen's opposition warned the government on Thursday that violence against street protesters demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh could derail a deal to end the political standoff. "In the event of your inability to protect protesters, we will find ourselves unable to pursue an agreement that the regime seeks to use to shed more blood," the opposition coalition said in a statement.

Plainclothes gunmen killed 10 people and wounded dozens more in Yemen's capital on Wednesday when they opened fire on protesters just days before a Gulf-mediated deal to end the crisis was due to be completed in Riyadh on Sunday.