x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Four tribesmen die in attack on Yemen Republican Guards base

Anti-government tribesmen capture 30 soldiers when they seized control of Republican Guards base, killing commander.

SANAA // Anti-government tribesmen yesterday stormed an army base of Yemen's Republican Guards, led by the son of the president, capturing 30 soldiers when they seized control of the facility.

Tribal and army officials said the attack at Dahrah, north of Sanaa, took place early yesterday.

The defence ministry said the base commander, Brigadier Ali Al Keleibi, was killed in the fighting but gave no further details.

At least four tribesmen were killed and 27 others wounded in the fighting but officials had no word on casualties among the guards.

It was the second Republican Guards' base to be captured in a week.

Protesters backed by renegade soldiers overran a base belonging to the guards last week in Sanaa as the opposition stepped up its campaign to oust Mr Saleh.

Yemen has been wracked by violence since February, when an uprising broke out to demand the ouster of the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Government forces have killed hundreds in an attempt to stamp out the revolt and the crackdown has intensified since Mr Saleh returned on Friday from Saudi Arabia, where he was receiving treatment for injuries suffered in a June attack on his Sanaa compound.

In a televised address on Sunday, Mr Saleh, 69, accused his opponents of co-operating with Al Qaeda, plotting a coup and shedding blood in an attempt to seize power.

In his speech, on the eve of the 49th anniversary of the revolution that saw Yemen declared a republic, he said he was committed to a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered deal that calls for him to transfer power.

But he repeated that the plan can be signed by his deputy, Abdurabu Mansur Hadi.

Mr Saleh has backed away three times from signing the deal that would provide him and his family immunity from prosecution if he steps down.

Esam Al Ahmadi, a shop owner, speaking as he walked yesterday through the rubble caused by deadly fighting between rebel army units and pro-Saleh forces in a Sanaa neighbourhood, said: "I was expecting the president would come back to end this increasing violence by announcing his resignation. However, he has disappointed and scared us that violence will prevail."

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets yesterday several cities, including Sanaa and Taiz, to continue to demand the resignation of the president. Others called for his prosecution, along with his family, on violence and corruption charges.

Munir Al Shameri, a protester in Sanaa, said yesterday: "The president is senile and does not realise that he has been repeating himself since we revolted. We took to the streets to demand his removal but not elections. There will be no solution except his resignation."

Mohammed Qahtan, a spokesman of the opposition Joint Meeting Parties coalition, said Mr Saleh's speech left no room for any political solution.

"Saleh demonstrated he is clinging to power and refuses to hand it over to his deputy," Mr Qahtan said.

Ahmed Al Zurka, an independent analyst and a freelance writer, said the speech shows the president is no longer in control and is under the control of his sons and nephews, who do not want to succumb to public demands.

"The speech has been full of contradictions. While Saleh calls for dialogue and compromise, he lashes out at his rivals and accuses them of being war mongers, Mr Al Zurkah said. "He says he is committed to the GCC but refuses to sign it or even allows his deputy to do so without any preconditions."

"It seems Saleh's relatives and hardliners in the ruling party have just brought the president to be in the picture while they crack down their rivals."

The speech came amid escalating violence in Sanaa, where about 150 people have been killed since September 18.

There was an uneasy calm in the capital yesterday as the rival forces, backed by tanks and armoured vehicles, remained at a short distance apart on high alert.


* With additional reporting by the Associated Press