Friday, May 27, 2011

Yemen protests expected after lull in fighting

May 27, 2011

SANAA (AFP) - Protests both for and against embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh were expected after Friday prayers in the capital Sanaa, which an AFP correspondent said was quiet but tense after heavy clashes.

Heavy fighting between security forces and tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, who heads the powerful Hashid tribal federation and in March pledged support for anti-Saleh protesters, stopped on Thursday afternoon, although some sporadic clashes took place afterwards.

Saleh, who has been in power for 33 years, has since January faced demonstrations calling for his departure.

Anti-regime protest organisers have called for demonstrations on Friday, calling it "The Friday Peaceful Revolt." Saleh loyalists, meanwhile, called for a "Friday of Law and Order" counter-protest.

On Sunday, Saleh refused to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council-sponsored deal that would have seen him cede power within 30 days, instead issuing new demands to the opposition, and warning of civil war.

Fighting between security forces and Ahmar supporters, in which dozens of people have been killed, erupted on Monday.

The Yemeni defence ministry's news website said on Thursday that Saleh has ordered the arrest of Ahmar and others involved in the unrest.

Ahmar, meanwhile, has accused Saleh of dragging the country into civil war.

Yemeni Forces Bomb Position Seized by Tribesmen

Yemeni military jets have bombed a position that had been seized by opposition tribesmen on Friday.

Earlier Friday, tribal leaders who have been fighting government forces said they had taken over a military camp outside of Sana'a. The tribesmen say at least six people were killed in the clash. It is unclear, from initial reports, if the camp is the site that has been bombed.

Yemeni security forces have been battling loyalists to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, the leader of the Hashid tribe. The battles have become the most serious threat to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's grasp on power after three months of opposition protests.

Witnesses and activists say nearly 100 people have been killed in clashes between the two sides this week.

Also, tribal fighters loyal to Sheikh Abdul Majid al-Zindani - who is allied with the Al-Ahmar family and faces U.S. sanctions as a terrorist financier - have been fighting pro-government forces.

Meanwhile Friday, Yemeni opposition leaders are calling for a new round of anti-government protests. Supporters of President Saleh has also rallied after Friday prayers, in recent weeks.

In a separate development, India announced Friday that it is advising all of its nationals in Yemen to leave. The foreign ministry cited the escalating violence. About 11,000 people from India live in Yemen.

Saleh has refused to leave power after nearly 33 years of authoritarian rule.