Saturday, December 17, 2011

Warring Yemen forces quit Sanaa, 2 troops die in south

Sat Dec 17, 2011
SANAA (Reuters) - Forces loyal to outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponents withdrew from their positions in the capital Sanaa on Saturday, witnesses and officials said, in a further sign a peace deal signed last month was being implemented. In southern Yemen, two government soldiers were killed in a clash with Islamist militants, medical sources said, as insurgents linked to al Qaeda challenged the peace accord aimed at pulling the country away from civil war.
Witnesses said a military committee set up under the Gulf peace deal signed in Saudi Arabia last month oversaw the dismantling of military positions that have divided the capital since protests against Saleh's 33-year rule began in January.
They said armoured bulldozers removed barricades from Sixty Street which split the capital into a dissident-controlled north and Saleh-ruled south under the military's supervision.
Military trucks were seen carrying armoured vehicles from the base of a brigade led by dissident General Ali Mohsen outside Sanaa.
A spokesman for the committee told the state news agency Saba that the first day of dismantling military positions had gone smoothly.
On the eastern side of the city, Republican Guard troops led by Saleh's son Ahmed also abandoned their positions.
"But tribal fighters from the al-Ahmar tribe, are still there, surrounded by paramilitary Central Security Forces," one resident said.
Saleh's forces had fought pitched battles with fighters loyal to tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar in the al-Hasaba and Soufan districts of Sanaa, where fresh explosions were heard early on Saturday. There were no reports of casualties.
Since Saleh handed over his powers to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, under the Gulf peace accord, a new Yemeni government headed by an opposition leader has been formed and a early presidential election is set to be held in February.
Hadi has also formed a military committee which oversaw a ceasefire in the flashpoint city of Taiz and supervised the withdrawl of rebel fighters and government forces.
In the southern city of Aden, sources at a military hospital said two soldiers were killed and six wounded near Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, where Islamist militants have exploited the chaos caused by nearly 11 months of protests to seize swathes of territory.
Apart from Islamist militants, the new government is facing challenges from a southern separatist movement and a Shi'ite Muslim rebellion in the north.
Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia shares U.S. fears that more instability in Yemen could embolden the country's al Qaeda wing - seen by Washington as the group's most dangerous branch - in a country sitting next to oil shipping routes.
European Union diplomats urged separatist leaders in Aden on Saturday to try to resolve their grievances in a national dialogue with the unity government in Sanaa.
The EU ambassador in Sanaa said after talks with southern Yemeni separatist leaders in Aden that the bloc encourages all Yemenis to join a national dialogue to determine the future of the country.
Separately, Abyan's governor said in a statement the fighting had made it impossible to open the main road to Aden, which has been closed for five months.

Fresh clashes in Yemeni capital

Dec 17, 2011
Sana'a,(dpa) - Clashes again erupted Saturday between government troops and opposition tribal forces in the Yemeni capital Sana'a.
The fighting started when the government forces shelled the district of Hasbah in northern Sana'a, which is the stronghold of the dissident tribal chief Sadiq al-Ahmar, according to local residents.
There were no immediate details of casualties.
The violence comes hours before a security committee, formed under a United Nations-sponsored power transfer deal, was to meet on Saturday to plan the removal of barricades and gunmen from the streets.
Meanwhile, the UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, has warned against hampering the implementation of the Gulf-brokered power transfer deal signed last month in Saudi Arabia.
Under the deal, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 33 years, agreed to step down in return for immunity from prosecution.
'The UN Security Council is closely monitoring the ... process in Yemen,' Benomar told reporters in Sana'a on Friday.
'The UN looks forward to seeing Yemen with its streets belonging to the people, not to militias and military groups,' he added.
The impoverished Arabian Peninsula country has been gripped by anti-government protests since February.

Three defected officers killed in Yemen

Sana'a, December 17, 2011- In Yemen, three defected army officers have been gunned down after attending an anti-regime demonstration in the southern city of Taizz, medics and witnesses say.
"The officers, Abdullah Ali, Ali bin Ali and Kayed Abdulrahman, were gunned down and another soldier was seriously wounded by unidentified gunmen in Jamal Street near the protesters' Liberation Square," Sadiq al-Shuga'a, head of a field hospital in Taizz, told Xinhua.
Witnesses said that masked gunmen opened fire on the officers on Friday when they were heading home after taking part in the rally calling for prosecution of the country's dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Some sources say the attackers, who fled the scene after the firing, were "thugs hired by loyalists of Saleh.”
Yemenis took to the streets in the capital, Sana'a, Taizz and other main cities following the Friday prayers, stressing that Saleh and his top lieutenants should face justice over the killing of hundreds of demonstrators.
The demonstrators also rejected the newly formed national unity government over the presence of Saleh's elements in the new Yemeni cabinet. Yemenis say they want their country to be cleansed of the ruling regime.
Saleh, who has been in power for 33 years, signed the power transition deal brokered by Persian Gulf Arab states in Saudi Arabia on November 23 and resigned as president and handed authority to his vice Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi in return for amnesty.
Saleh currently serves as an honorary president until polls are held in February to elect his successor.
Hundreds of Yemenis have been killed and thousands more wounded in clashes between Saleh forces and revolutionaries since the start of the popular uprising in the impoverished Arab nation in late January.

UN envoy leaves Yemen as power transfer process moves forward

SANAA, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- UN envoy Jamal bin Omar left Yemen on Saturday after his seventh visit to Sanaa to follow up implementation of a UN resolution and a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal, state media reported.
"There is important development in the political situation in Yemen, where preparations are underway for early presidential elections on Feb. 21 next year and the joint military committee began its process to restore normality to the country," official SABA news agency quoted bin Omar as saying upon his departure.
"The obstacles must be overcome through dialogue and consensual understanding," said bin Omar, who is scheduled to present his report on Yemen to the UN Security Council on Dec. 19.
Meanwhile, the Yemeni Military Affairs Committee headed by Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi began on Saturday morning to remove barricades and checkpoints of forces loyal to outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the defected First Armored Division from the western part of Sanaa in line with the UN-backed initiative.
The initiative was signed by Saleh and opposition leaders in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 23, which was designed to end the 11-month- long turmoil that brought the impoverished Arab state on the verge of a civil war and economic collapse.
Under the deal, early presidential elections in Yemen are set to be held on Feb. 21, 2012, while Saleh retains the title of honorary president for 90 days before his resignation and enjoys immunity from prosecution afterwards.

Yemen's military committee begins to remove roadblocks, checkpoints in capital

SANAA, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Yemeni national military committee, which was assigned to end clashes and restore order to the cities after months-long unrest in line with a power transfer deal, began Saturday to remove the roadblocks and checkpoints in the capital Sanaa, officials said.
"The Military Affairs Committee headed by Vice President Abd- Rabbu Mansour Hadi began this morning to remove barricades and checkpoints of forces loyal to outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the defected First Armored Division in 60th Street in western Sanaa," a security official told Xinhua.
The rival forces were ordered to return to their barracks within the next few hours, the official said on condition of anonymity. He added that "the process is running smoothly until now."
The removal process came hours after heavy clashes took place in Hassaba district in downtown Sanaa between forces loyal to Saleh and the defected army-backed opposition militia, which left two policemen guarding the headquarters of the Interior ministry dead.
On Wednesday, Vice President Hadi ordered the government forces and the opposition militants to withdraw from Sanaa's streets as of Saturday and to restore order in a week, according to Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered power-transfer initiative, official SABA news agency reported.
On Nov. 23, Saleh's party General People's Congress and the opposition Joint Meeting Parties signed the GCC deal in the Saudi capital of Riyadh in an attempt to end the crisis.
Under the deal, early presidential elections in Yemen are slated for Feb. 21, 2012, while Saleh retains the title of honorary president for 90 days before his resignation and is granted immunity from prosecution.