Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yemen's Saleh backs peaceful power transfer

In address to nation, president says vice-president authorised to hold talks with opposition and sign deal.

25 Sep 2011

Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's embattled president, has called for peaceful transition of power to end months of unrest in the country.

In an address on television, Saleh said he had authorised the vice-president to engage in dialogue with the opposition and sign a transition deal.

He said presidential and parliamentary elections would be held after an agreement is signed.

A defiant Saleh said violence would not succeed in bringing about change in the country. "This bloodbath will not get you power," he told those ranged against him.

Sunday's address was Saleh's first since he returned to the country last week after recuperating in neighbouring Saudi Arabia for three months following an attack on him in June.

As Saleh spoke, anti-government protesters lit a symbolic torch in the capital's Change Square.

Sanaa has been gripped by street battles and exchanges of shelling between the elite Republican Guards, led by Saleh's son, and tribesmen opposing Saleh as well as military units who had defected.

Nearly 100 people have been killed in Sanaa and elsewhere in Yemen since Sunday.

Protests have been taking place on a nearly daily basis in Sanaa since mid-January calling for an end to Saleh's rule which began in 1978. Saleh was re-elected in September 2006 for a seven-year mandate.

Alarmed by the escalating unrest, Yemen's wealthy Gulf neighbours have been trying for months to persuade Saleh to accept a plan under which he would hand over power in return for a promise of immunity from prosecution.

Saleh had been involved in the negotiations, repeatedly promising to step down only to change his position at the last minute.

Yemen faces civil war, dissident general says

Sudarsan Raghavan

September 25, 2011

SANAA: Tensions between Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and an influential dissident general have risen amid fresh assaults that killed at least 40 people and injured scores.

The mounting violence on Saturday came a day after Mr Saleh abruptly returned from Saudi Arabia after nearly four months and called for a cease-fire and a return to negotiations to solve Yemen's crisis.

In a sternly worded statement, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, whose forces control many parts of the capital, warned that Mr Saleh was propelling the country towards civil war and urged the United States, Yemen's Persian Gulf neighbours and the international community to stop him.

General Mohsen called Mr Saleh ''ignorant and bloodthirsty'' and likened him to the Roman emperor Nero, burning down his own city.

''With his return, Yemen is experiencing sweeping chaos, and the harbingers of a crushing civil war which this ignorant man is determined to ignite,'' he said in the statement.

He urged the international community to ''deter him, stop his irresponsible actions where he intends to ignite a civil war that would bring down the whole country and have repercussions on the whole region and on world peace''.

General Mohsen's statement - his strongest public rebuke of Mr Saleh since Yemen's populist uprising began in February - came shortly after mortar shells fell on the main base of his 1st Armoured Division, killing 11 troops and injuring more than 100, General Mohsen's aides said. Suspicion fell on forces loyal to Mr Saleh who have battled General Mohsen's troops over the past six days in Sanaa.

In another part of the capital, government forces attacked Change Square - a sprawling camp where activists have staged an eight-month sit-in to end Mr Saleh's 33-year reign - with mortar shells and heavy gunfire in Saturday's pre-dawn darkness. Rooftop snipers shot at protesters and General Mohsen's soldiers protecting the square.

General Mohsen defected in March after snipers loyal to Mr Saleh killed dozens of protesters.

Unrest intensifies in Yemen since Saleh’s return

Sarah Sheffer | 25 September 2011

CAIRO: Protests in Yemen have escalated in the past two weeks as loyalist troops battle with opposition forces, marking the bloodiest days of conflict since uprisings began last January.

The weekend was particularly deadly in Sanaa, as Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to the state on Friday after having spent three months in Saudi Arabia recuperating from an assassination attempt.

At least one person died and 17 were wounded on Sunday when troops opened live ammunition on crowds of protesters.

Another 40 were killed in Sanaa on Saturday when government forces attacked one of the main protest camps in the city.

Violence in the last week left almost 140 dead.

Some believe that the intensified violence signifies an accelerated attempt by Saleh loyalists to regain hold of the country.

Saleh has not yet announced his intentions in the outset of his return, however he reportedly said that he is returning to the country “carrying the dove of peace and the olive branch.”

Global leaders including the United Nations and the Obama administration have called upon Saleh to allow for a full, immediate and peaceful transfer of power.

“Too many Yemenis have lost their lives and each day that passes without a peaceful and orderly transition is another day that the Yemeni people are forced to live in an unstable environment that threatens their security and livelihood,” said US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Some fear that the state lies on the brink of a civil war and famine. Two out of every three people live on less than $2 a day, and half of the population owns a gun.

Protesters blame Saleh for negligence, corruption, poverty and lawlessness in Yemen.

Yemeni militants linked to al-Qaeda cut off boy’s arm for stealing

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Aden- Al-Qaeda linked militants severed the hand of a 15-year-old boy after he stole electrical cables in a southern Yemeni town, witnesses who had been summoned to watch the punishment said Sunday.

The militants cut off the boy’s hand with a sword in front of dozens of residents of Jaar, in the troubled southern province of Abyan, on Saturday evening before taking the limb around town for all to see.

An AFP correspondent spoke to four witnesses at the scene who confirmed the incident took place. They all requested anonymity due to fears of reprisals from militants.

The witnesses said the militants announced they would also cut off another man’s hand later on Sunday. He too had been caught stealing electrical cables, they said.

Under a very strict interpretation of Islamic law, theft is punishable by cutting off the thief’s hand.

Since May, al-Qaeda linked militants known as the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic Law) have taken control of several towns in Abyan, including the province’s capital Zinjibar.

On September 10, the Yemeni government announced its troops had regained control over Zinjibar but officials later told AFP parts of the city remained in militant hands.

The town of Jaar remains under militant control and residents say there is currently no government presence in the town.

Yemen has witnessed months of political turmoil since a huge wave of protests erupted in January calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation.

Militants have taken advantage of power vacuum and advanced their influence in the southern provinces of Yemen.

In a September 13 statement, the newly appointed CIA director David Petraeus said that al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch “has emerged as the most dangerous regional node in the global jihad.”

Two dead, 18 wounded in Yemen clashes

By Erika Solomon

SANAA | Sun Sep 25, 2011

(Reuters) - Yemeni soldiers killed two tribal fighters and wounded 18 anti-government protesters in the latest clashes in a week of unrest that has raised fears of a descent into all-out civil war.

In an escalation of the violence to outside the capital, two pro-opposition tribesmen were killed in the mountainous region of Naham, a clan sheikh said, after the army shelled the area where the armed tribesmen were centered and clashing with loyalist troops.

In Sanaa, soldiers used live rounds against protesters as they marched out of their protest camp into the streets of the capital.

"I saw soldiers from above, in buildings and on the bridge," said Mohammed al-Mas, 21, a protester whose back was drenched in blood from a gunshot wound. He said an electricity pole had crashed down and divided the march into two.

"Then the gunfire started and I ran back, but I suddenly felt the shot in the back and I don't know what happened next."

Eighteen people were wounded and medics said two were in critical condition. Doctors denied a television report that one protester had been killed.

Some 17 people were killed on Saturday when government forces attacked the main opposition protest camp in Sanaa, said witnesses and medics, bringing the death toll in five days of fighting to around 100.

Analysts fear that a slide toward anarchy in the unruly Arabian Peninsula state could create opportunities for a wing of al Qaeda based there and endanger oil shipment routes through the Red Sea.

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh unexpectedly returned to the country on Friday after a three-month stay in neighboring Saudi Arabia recuperating from an assassination attempt in June.

His arrival in Sanaa came despite the entreaties of Western and Gulf states for the veteran leader to end his 33 years in power following an eight-month revolt.

Saleh, 69, has not yet announced his intentions since coming back to Yemen, but said on Saturday he was "carrying the dove of peace and the olive branch."

He is expected to give a speech on state television later on Sunday.

"It's funny he says he came with the olive branch. He's the enemy of the people," said Abdulqawy Noaman, a professor at Sanaa University who was shot in the leg.


Popular protests in January inspired by the Arab Spring sparked a revolt against Saleh's rule that was joined by some of the country's tribal leaders and a dissident general.

Protesters accuse Saleh, his family and government of widespread corruption and failing to address crippling poverty and lawlessness in a land where one in two owns a gun.

The demonstrators are backed by powerful forces including the elite leaders of the al-Ahmar clan, which heads Yemen's largest tribal confederation the Hashed. They also are backed by the military force of dissident General Ali Mohsen, who defected in March to set up a military confrontation.

The streets of Yemen's capital where protests happened daily have been divided between rival forces loyal to the president, the general and the tribes for months. Efforts by the demonstrators to march into government areas has sparked bloody battles between state troops and Mohsen's forces in which protesters have been the biggest victims.

On Sunday, hundreds laid out prayer mats in the plaza the protesters have dubbed Change Square to pray for those who died on Friday. Nine were Ahmar's tribal fighters in the heavy clashes between pro- and anti-government tribes. One was a television journalist who succumbed to heavy injuries while covering a protest days earlier.

The bodies were wrapped in Yemeni flags, and laid out in the square as protesters surrounding them chanted to their recently returned president: "Oh you tyrant wait, justice is coming to you!"