Thursday, June 9, 2011

Clashes in the south as Yemen's future remains uncertain

Jun 9, 2011
Sana'a/Cairo - Protesters, al-Qaeda gunmen and security forces were killed in southern Yemen on Thursday as clashes continued and the country's political future remained unclear.
At least three soldiers and ten al-Qaeda gunmen died in the city of Zanjibar, where security forces fought to regain control, broadcaster Al Arabiya reported.
In the southern city of Taiz, two protesters were killed and two others injured. It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack.
The protesters were demanding the immediate formation of a transitional council, and for president Ali Abdullah Saleh to remain away from Yemen.
Saleh, who has ruled for 32 years, is in hospital in neighbouring Saudi Arabia after being injured in an attack on his palace on Friday.
For the past four months, protesters have been demanding that Saleh step down. More than 350 people have reportedly been killed in the uprising.
Dozens of people were injured by stray bullets from celebratory gunfire in Sana'a late Wednesday, witnesses said, following news that Saleh was moved out of intensive care following successful surgery.
The Yemeni capital was rocked by the sound of heavy gunfire and fireworks for several hours, while state television and witnesses reported that hundreds were celebrating Saleh's improving health by firing shots in the air.
The celebrations came hours after a protest was dispersed by soldiers from a military brigade led by General Ali Mohsen, who had earlier defected, which has led to confusion about his loyalties.
Meanwhile, witnesses told the German Press Agency dpa that US aircraft bombed the city of Zanjibar, which fell under al-Qaeda control last month.
The United States is using the power vacuum in Yemen to step up air attacks on Islamist militants, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The US has used drones and fighter jets in the strikes, the paper reported, citing unnamed US officials.
Yemen's current regime is a key Washington ally. US military and intelligence operatives have a command post in Sana'a, used to gather information on militants and plan strikes.
Yemeni opposition members have accused Saleh of 'handing over' Zanjibar to al-Qaeda in a bid to gather Western support for his continued grip on power.
Officials in Saleh's party have indicated that they still consider him to be in power and that he will return to Sana'a 'in a few days.'
It is unclear if Saleh is still in power or if his vice president, Abd-Rabbo Manour, - or indeed Saleh's son Ahmed - are now in control of the country.
Saleh has blamed members of his Hashid tribe for the attack Friday in which he was wounded, which also led to the deaths of seven security guards and injured several officials.

Four Soldiers and 12 Suspected Al-Qaeda militants Killed in Hadhramout and Abyan Provinces

By Fatik Al-Rodaini
Sana'a, June 9, 2011- At least one soldier was killed and two others were wounded in Yemen's southern province of Hadhramout.
Private sources said that an unknown armed group attacked a governmental patrol vehicle in the city of Koten killing one and wounding two others. Sources said that attackers ran away after the attack, no more details were reported.
Meanwhile, at least 15 people were killed in Yemen's southern province of Abyan in renewed clashes between suspected Al-Qaeda militants and Yemen's troops.
At least three soldiers and ten al-Qaeda gunmen died in the city of Zanjibar, where security forces fought to regain control, broadcaster Al Arabiya reported.
In the southern city of Taiz, two protesters were killed and two others injured. It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack.

Clinton says Yemen's cease-fire must be respected

Thursday, June 9, 2011
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) --
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says all sides should honor Yemen's cease-fire so a peaceful change of power can take place.
Clinton, who's traveling in the Persian Gulf region, told reporters that the U.S. was pushing for an "immediate, orderly and peaceful transition" in Yemen.
She said Thursday that she didn't know whether President Ali Abdullah Saleh planned to return. Saleh is being treated in Saudi Arabia after his compound was attacked last week.
The U.S. hopes the government and opposition tribesmen can agree on a way forward. They've fought instead, pushing Yemen toward civil war.
Clinton declined to say how the U.S. was dealing with al-Qaida in Yemen. U.S. officials say the covert campaign against the Yemeni branch of the terrorist group continues.

One Soldier Killed and Two others Wounded in Hadhramout

By Fatik Al-Rodaini

Sana'a, June 9, 2011- At least one soldier was killed and two others were wounded in Yemen's southern province of Hadhramout.

Private sources said that an unknown armed group attacked a governmental patrol vehicle in the city of Koten killing one and wounding two others. Sources said that attackers ran away after the attack, no more details were reported.

Russia may take extra measures for safety of Russians in Yemen

Russia may take additional measures to ensure the safety of Russian nationals in Yemen, which is teetering on the brink of a civil war, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday.

"Depending on how the situation in Yemen unfolds, we do not rule out taking additional to ensure the safety of our citizens," Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow.

A pro-democracy uprising against the 33-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh has developed into an armed conflict drawing in U.S. airstrikes.

Lukashevich did not say exactly what measures could be taken.

He said the number of diplomats at the embassy in Sanaa and consulate general in Adana had been trimmed.

Washington says it is trying to prevent Islamist militants from taking control of the impoverished state, amid concerns that al Qaeda operatives might have mingled with the protesters.

Saleh was badly wounded in a bomb attack on his Sanaa compound on Friday.

The government said the 69-year-old leader would return to work within a week despite reports that burns cover 40 percent of his body.

MOSCOW, June 9 (RIA Novosti)

YEMEN: The human cost of the conflict

DUBAI, 9 June 2011 (IRIN) - Political violence has displaced thousands in Yemen, while a three-fold increase in the cost of food and water, combined with fuel shortages, is straining the ability of families to cope, aid workers warn.

In the capital, Sana’a, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported that about 4,000 residents are seeking protection as a result of fighting late last month in the northern Al-Hasaba district of the city between security forces loyal to President Ali Saleh and the armed opposition.

The target for government loyalists was the Al-Hasaba home of Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ahmar, head of the politically key Al-Ahmar family, who has emerged as a champion of those demanding Saleh’s resignation.

Humanitarian agencies are also aware of other smaller groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sana’a.

Joint International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Yemen Red Crescent teams working in and around Sana'a have retrieved some 20 dead bodies since 4 June. On 7 June, seven bodies were recovered from Al-Hassaba, ICRC said in a statement.

The southern city of Zinjibar has reportedly virtually emptied since its takeover by anti-government militia, but ongoing insecurity has prevented aid workers from accessing the area.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there could be as many as 35,000-40,000 IDPs in need in the coastal city of Aden, and the southern governorate of Abyan.

“Nearly 10,000 IDPs from Abyan, southern Yemen, are living in relocation centres in public schools in and around [Yemen’s second city] Aden,” said Pete Mansfield, OCHA deputy head in Yemen. A further 4,700 IDPs have been registered in Lahj.

Families in Aden are taking in many of those who have fled the violence in the south, but several of these households are already close to the poverty line and will need support, aid workers said.

At least 15 humanitarian organizations are working in Aden to provide water, shelter, food, health services and other assistance. “Coordination is progressing well but the needs are large,” Mansfield told IRIN.

NGOs are reporting that food and water prices have increased up to threefold in some urban towns, including Sana’a. A national fuel shortage is also continuing to disrupt markets, hamper the ability to pump and distribute water, and keep cars off the streets.

Celebratory gunfire

A tense ceasefire has held in Sana’a, but on the night of 8 June there were hours of celebratory gunfire by pro-government forces greeting the news that Saleh was out of intensive care after successful surgery in Saudi Arabia for wounds received in a rocket attack on the presidential compound.

“The intent was clear from government forces to remind everyone that they are still there,” a diplomatic source told IRIN. “Although the ceasefire is just about holding, tensions are very high.”

Yemen’s opposition and pro-democracy protesters are demanding that Saleh step down after 32 years in power, accusing him of corruption, cronyism and mismanagement. He has responded with violence. Since the start of the civil unrest in February, an estimated 225 people have been killed and 3,125 injured.

On 8 June protesters demanded that Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi agree to the formation of a transitional presidential council drawn from a broad base of Yemeni groups to run the country until elections. Both the protest movement and opposition parties want Hadi to renounce Saleh and block his return from Saudi Arabia.

“We ask Hadi to be wise to save the country,” Adil Al-Aswar, a member of a committee coordinating the protest movement, told IRIN. “If Saleh returns we will see the situation turn more violent.”

Yemen activists warn against blocking themJune 9, 2011

SANAA, Yemen, June 9 (UPI) -- Activists behind the uprising in Yemen threatened to install a provisional presidential council if political leaders block a way for a transition of power.
Even with President Ali Abdullah Saleh being treated in Saudi Arabia for burns and injuries sustained in the bombing of his compound last week, activists said they could lose the gains they made and Saleh's rule could continue in his absence, The Washington Post reported.
After the government announced that Saleh's health was improving, celebratory gunfire and fireworks erupted across Sanaa, the country's capital, Wednesday night.
The activists also criticized political parties that tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Saleh to hand over power before Friday's attack on the presidential palace.
"We would like to announce that the JMP [Joint Meeting Parties] is part of the regime that we are seeking to remove," Tawakkol Karman, a leader of the activists, said of the coalition of six opposition groups. "In any new government, if the JMP is part of it, our revolution will continue."
Activist leaders said they think the traditional opposition parties are just as suspect as the president's supporters, the Post said.
The activists say they want an overhaul of Yemen's government and Saleh and his relatives in power to be brought to justice. The JMP, however, is pushing for a gradual transfer of power, saying it prefers a proposal by the Gulf Cooperation Council that calls for Saleh to hand over authority to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution for himself and his relatives. The vice president would create a transitional unity government, including members of Saleh's ruling party, that would govern until elections.
With the country's leadership in disarray, America's covert war in Yemen has been striking suspectedv militants with drones and fighter jets, U.S. officials told The New York Times.
Because Yemeni troops battling militants linked to al-Qaida have been redeployed to the capital, U.S. officials said they see the strikes as one of a few options to keep the militants from consolidating power.

Yemeni activists press government to abandon Saleh

By Sudarsan Raghavan, Updated: Wednesday, June 8,

SANAA, Yemen — Youth and human rights activist leaders, who spearheaded Yemen’s populist rebellion, said Wednesday that they intend to launch their own transitional presidential council if the government refuses to abandon President Ali Abdullah Saleh and pave the way for a transition of power.

The ultimatum underscored the sense of urgency and frustrations among the activists. They fear that, even with Saleh outside Yemen, they could lose the gains they have achieved so far and that his government could continue to rule in his absence.

“The only reason we are calling for the formation of a presidential council is because we feel the political powers have failed to take advantage of this historical moment when the president has left,” Tawakkol Karman, a prominent activist, told reporters, referring to Saleh’s loyalists. “So we have taken the initiative.”

While the creation of a shadow transitional council, if it happens, is unlikely to alter the power dynamics inside Yemen, it would send a clear signal that many of the youth and human rights activists who launched the rebellion are unhappy with current efforts by the political opposition and the international community to create a post-Saleh Yemen.

The other major players in Yemen have largely stayed out of the political fray, although they remain influential. Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Saleh’s closest ally before he defected in March, has kept out of the public eye. But his troops continue to guard the protesters at Change Square, where tens of thousands have camped out for months.

The tribal militias linked to the Ahmar family remain in control of some areas, including the Hasaba district in northern Sanaa, home to the family’s residences. The Ahmars have long played a significant role in Yemen and are among the country’s wealthiest citizens. One son, Hamid, a business tycoon, is a top leader in the political opposition who is widely viewed as a potential successor to Saleh.

In the south, Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch, have taken advantage of the turmoil. They have taken over areas in Abyan province, an al-Qaeda stronghold, including the southern city of Zinjibar. But al-Qaeda has not weighed in vocally in the political arena.

The drive to oust Saleh took on a new sense of urgency amid reports Tuesday that the injuries he sustained in an attack on his palace last week were more severe than previously stated.

A U.S. official said that Saleh, who left Yemen on Saturday to seek medical care in Saudi Arabia, “sustained significant burn injuries and shrapnel wounds.”

In the streets of this tense capital, many youth activists see a greater opportunity to push through the democratic reforms they have fought for since launching a populist uprising in February. But Saleh’s supporters dismissed reports of his condition as exaggerated and appeared intent on demonstrating that without him, Yemen will remain engulfed in chaos.

On Wednesday, a Saudi-brokered truce continued to show signs of holding firm. Tribal fighters allied with the Ahmar family, who engaged in fierce clashes with government forces over two weeks, pulled out of several government buildings Tuesday night, including ministries they had taken over, according to Abdulqawi al-Qaisi, a spokesman for the family.

More than 15 rotting bodies of tribal fighters and soldiers as well as civilians from recent fighting were recovered Wednesday from the Hasaba neighborhood, witnesses said. They said the bodies were found in the area surrounding the Hasaba police station and near the house of Sadiq al-Ahmar, where fierce fighting between the government troops and Ahmar tribal supporters took place and had prevented the removal of the bodies. A spokesman at the Ahmar office said 10 of the dead were tribal fighters.