Monday, October 17, 2011

Eight killed in fierce clashes in Yemen capital

By Hammoud Mounassar (AFP), October 17, 2011

SANAA — Deadly clashes killed eight people in the Yemeni capital as tension spiked following a new wave of killings of anti-regime protesters by troops loyal to veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Eight people were killed and 27 wounded in the overnight street battles, which saw tribes and troops opposing Saleh ranged against loyalists, medics and a tribal source said on Monday.

France condemned the use of force against protesters and urged respect for human rights.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the use of force against demonstrators and call on parties to exercise restraint... Violence should stop and the international law, mainly human rights, should be respected," said foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

Four of the dead in the overnight clashes were killed in shelling that targeted Change Square, where protesters demanding the ouster of Saleh have camped out for months, medics said.

Some 10 rockets struck around the square, including one close to a field clinic, a medic at the facility said.

Fierce clashes took place in the northern Sanaa neighbourhood of Al-Hassaba between tribesmen led by Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, who opposes Saleh, and followers of Sheikh Saghir bin Aziz, who remains loyal to the embattled leader.

Bin Aziz's brother, Sheikh Saleh, 35, was killed when shrapnel penetrated his head, a medic at the Saudi German hospital said, adding that five others were wounded.

Two people killed in clashes in Al-Hassaba and one of the four killed in the shelling of Change Square were taken to the Science and Technology Hospital, Dr Mohammed al-Sarmi said.

He said the hospital also admitted 22 wounded.

A source in the office of Sheikh Sadeq, who leads the powerful Hashid tribal confederation, said a civilian was killed when a rocket hit his house in Bahrain Street, in Al-Hassaba.

On Monday, thousands of women held a protest close to the foreign ministry in Sanaa, where demonstrators were shot dead on Saturday.

"Those who kill the youths of the revolution and peaceful demonstrators should be executed," said a banner carried by the protesters.

In Yemen's second-largest city Taez, tens of thousands of women demonstrated to condemn the killing of Aziza Ghaleb, 21, who on Sunday became the first woman to be killed since anti-Saleh protests erupted in January.

Saleh on Sunday charged that the protests were being militarised and were part of a coup led by Islamists, apparently alluding to the Islah (Reform) party, Yemen's largest parliamentary opposition party.

Protesters said Saleh's forces were trying through the shelling to force them to leave Change Square.

"The shelling came after Saleh's speech. He is trying to terrify us to force demonstrators to go home, but they will not before achieving all their goals by bringing down the regime," leading protester Walid al-Ammari told AFP.

Clashes also broke out overnight in Ziraa Street, east of Change Square, between troops from the dissident First Armoured Division, led by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, which provides protection for protesters, and Central Security forces loyal to Saleh.

Tension had escalated in Sanaa after demonstrators raised the stakes on Saturday, marching towards zones of the capital controlled by Saleh's forces, prompting a deadly response from loyalist troops and gunmen.

Saleh's forces shot dead 12 protesters on Saturday, while six people, including four demonstrators and two soldiers of Ahmar's division, were killed on Sunday, according to medics. Dozens more were wounded.

Ahmar's First Armoured Division said it lost 10 soldiers, including a major, in gunfire from Saleh loyalists over the past two days.

It accused the elite Republican Guard, commanded by Saleh's son Ahmed, and other security bodies led by relatives of the veteran leader of being behind the killings, along with loyalist "thugs."

"This was part of the series of crimes committed by Saleh and his bloody gang against peaceful demonstrators and their guards of the soldiers of the free Yemeni army that backs the revolution," it said in a statement.

General Ahmar has called on the international community to take immediate action to stop the bloodshed and force Saleh to step down.

Despite mounting pressure from Western governments as well as the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, Saleh has for months refused to sign a deal brokered by the GCC for him to hand over power in return for promise of immunity from prosecution.

According to a letter from Yemen's youth movement sent to the United Nations earlier this month, at least 861 people have been killed and 25,000 wounded since mass protests erupted across the country.

Yemen needs more than a UN resolution to oust Saleh

As his country faces economic and humanitarian disaster, Yemen's president seems concerned only with retaining power

Brian Whitaker, Monday 17 October 2011

Article history

Almost nine months after the uprising against President Saleh began in Yemen, it looks as though the UN security council will finally get round to issuing a resolution this week. Whether that will make any difference on the ground remains to be seen.

On Sunday, six more demonstrators were shot dead on the streets of Sana'a – reportedly by plainclothes government snipers – and clashes between pro-Saleh forces and tribal militias allied with defected elements of the Yemeni military continue unabated.

In the midst of that, Yemen, which has long been one of the world's poorest countries, continues its slide towards economic and humanitarian disaster.

"Every night, a third of the Yemeni people go to bed hungry," Valerie Amos, a UN humanitarian official, warned last week. "In some parts of the country, one in three children are malnourished – among the highest malnutrition levels in the world." Even for those who have food to eat, prices of basic commodities continue to soar.

These economic problems have been overshadowed by political conflict but they are a major factor in the country's instability. Worse still, there is no longer any prospect of tackling them while Saleh remains in power.

Not that Saleh appears particularly concerned by that. All the signs are that his main – perhaps only – priority now is to ensure that he and his family continue to hold the reins for as long as possible, even if in the end he presides over a country in ruins.

Increasingly, he seems to be harbouring Mugabe-style delusions. Last week, as word spread of the likely UN resolution, he accused diplomats of being biased against him. Foreign ambassadors, he said, "move from one opposition to the other, collect information and consider the information they get from the opposition as they if they are the victim whom they should support". He also described the local opposition as "insane [people] who can't sleep and only want to take power".

At an international level there is broad agreement that the way forward for Yemen should begin with Saleh's departure but persuading him to go is proving far more difficult than it did in Tunisia or Egypt. Among the complicating factors are American fears about al-Qaida in Yemen and Saudi Arabia's fears of a genuinely democratic transformation in its southern neighbour. The Saudis don't really care about Saleh but they are opposing any change that upsets the general status quo.

The proposed security council resolution – drafted by Britain and leaked last week – could win approval from Russia and China because, unlike the earlier resolution Syria which they vetoed, it doesn't talk of sanctions or other punitive measures. The draft "strongly condemns the continued human rights violations by the Yemeni authorities" and "demands an immediate end to all violence by all sides".

It adds that "all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses should be held accountable" – which sounds like a threat to prosecute Saleh and other offenders – while also calling on Saleh to "immediately sign and implement a political transition on the basis of the Gulf co-operation council initiative". This is where the resolution gets into a muddle. The GCC initiative includes immunity from prosecution for Saleh, so the security council cannot hold him to account for his crimes while at the same time urging him to sign the initiative.

Apart from that, there is little reason to put much faith in the GCC initiative since its "transition" timetable allows plenty of scope for Saleh to backpedal and prevaricate. He was originally supposed to sign it in April but then refused at the last minute.

Since then he has alternately blown hot and cold on the initiative – usually depending on how much pressure he happens to be under at the time – but there is not much reason to suppose that a security council resolution will make him sign it now, let alone implement it.

Yemen - Another journalist killed as Saleh regime steps up violence against protesters

October 17, 2011

Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the death of Al-Yemen TV cameraman Abd Al-Ghani Al-Bureihi, who was fatally shot yesterday when security forces opened fired on protesters during a massive demonstration in Sanaa to call for President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s resignation. Around 20 people were killed during the weekend protests.

Al-Bureihi’s death brings to six the number of journalists killed in Yemen since the pro-democracy protests began in February. It has again highlighted the dangers to which journalists covering these protests are exposed. Two other cameramen, including Salah Al-Hatar of Al-Jazeera, were reportedly injured during yesterday’s demonstration.

Reporters Without Borders offers its condolences to Al-Bureihi’s family, friends and colleagues and reiterates its appeal for an end to the violence against civilians, including journalists. The Yemeni authorities must answer for Al-Bureihi’s death.

Journalists and news media have been involved in several incidents in the past few days. Reporters Without Borders has learned that Abd Al-Karim Thail, the editor of the 3 February website, was arrested as he was leaving his Sanaa home in the company of the activist Hamir Al-Muqbili on 14 October. His website posts information about the uprising in Yemen.

The Sanaa headquarters of the privately-owned TV station Al-Saida caught fire during clashes between security forces and members of the 1st Armoured Division who are backing the protesters. The station sustained a great deal of damage and much of its equipment was destroyed.

Ever since President Saleh’s return from Saudi Arabia on 3 October, the pro-government TV stations have been waging a hate campaign against many journalists, accusing them of treason and espionage. This has triggered a wave of attacks and violence against a growing number of media personnel.

In a statement last week, the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate condemned the “carnage” and “relentless slaughter” of civilians and journalists by forces loyal to President Saleh and reiterated its call to the government to put a stop to the targeting of journalists.

Clashes Kill 8 in Yemeni Capital

Sana'a, October 17, 2011- Clashes between troops loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and opposition forces have killed at least eight people in the capital, Sana'a.

Medical personnel said at least three of those killed in Monday's fighting were in the city's Change Square, which has served as a center of anti-government protests. The other victims were killed in overnight clashes around Sana'a.

The clashes come a day after loyalist forces shot at protesters in the capital, killing four. Activists there said tens of thousands of people gathered Sunday to call for the president's resignation.

There were also reports that forces in the southern city of Taiz killed one person.

Saleh has remained in office despite 10 months of mass demonstrations against his 33-year rule.

Saleh repeated in a speech earlier this month that he will not hand power to long-time rivals from the opposition parties. He said they have hijacked the youth activists' protest that began earlier this year and aim to "destroy the country."