Sunday, April 1, 2012

Yemen’s capital on highest alert, as clashes expected

Chiara Onassis | 1 April 2012
SANA’A: As war planes loudly flew over the Yemeni capital this Sunday morning, reminders that fighting in Arhab and its vicinity were still raging, residents in the northern districts of the capital told that soldiers loyal to General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar’s tribesmen had come back to their neighborhoods in their thousands, once again positioning themselves upon rooftops and entering schools and other buildings, clearly marking their territories.
A Lieutenant of al-Firkah, Mohsen’s division revealed under cover of anonymity that the General was gearing up for another round of attacks as the fight for power was moving to the capital.
“President Saleh’s loyalists have been battling out al-Islah in some sort of a covert war ever since the signature of the power-transfer, either on the political arena either throughout the use of armed militias and ‘groups’, sabotaging the state infrastructures to better accuse their opponents of wrong-doings,” he began.
“Both sides have actually been using the same propaganda methods … Over the past 48 hours things have degenerated, with the air force pounding Arhab tribes. Those men are supporters of Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar and the Sheikh is not willing to let his men get slaughtered without retaliating.
Things are getting serious now and reinforcement is being sent as we speak to Arhab as the tribes want to take down al-Sama’a Republican Guards base. If this base falls the Revolution would have won,” he added.
While the Republican Guards are justifying their attacks on Arhab by claiming that al-Qaeda militants are currently running operations against the state, local tribes are accusing Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, Saleh’s eldest son and Head of the Republican Guards of using al-Qaeda’s card to cover his personal vendetta against those opposing his rule and that of his father.
Ever since the beginning of last year’s uprising, Arhab tribes rose against the regome pledging to support revolutionaries. The move was costly as they became the air force’s target of choice, ensuing air raids and shelling campaign.
And indeed sandbags and barricades have been raised again near “Change Square”, the main rallying point of the Revolution and in and around Hasaba, a district under the direct control of al-Ahmar’s clan.
Ahmed al-Sofi a security analyst already warned last week against the dangers of such a political stand-off in Yemen, saying that if the remnants of the regime continued to hang on to whatever power they had left refusing to compromise with the opposition, Yemen could yet revert to a state of war.
 “Al-Ahmar and Saleh are refusing to let go and since they both have a veritable war arsenal at their disposal they could spark off a bloody civil war. I don’t think the international community is quite grasping the severity of the situation. None of the factions are willing to negotiate for it would mean letting go of decades of ultimate power. For Saleh it is his entire legacy he would have to let go off and for al-Ahmar, his undisputed title of Sheikh of Sheikhs,” said the soldier.

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