x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Saleh regime 'tried to kill Islamist party chief'

JMP calls attack an attempt to embroil Yemen in civil war as bullets hit car of main opposition leader the day after alliance announced to unite anti-government forces.

Anti government protesters take part in a rally to demand the departure of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh at Tagheer square in Sanaa yesterday. Suhaib Salem / Reuters
Anti government protesters take part in a rally to demand the departure of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh at Tagheer square in Sanaa yesterday. Suhaib Salem / Reuters

SANAA // Yemen's opposition accused the government of attempting to assassinate an Islamist party leader yesterday, as tensions spiralled amid uncertainties over the country's future.

The car of Mohammed Al Yadomi, the leader of Yemen's main opposition party, Islah, was hit by four bullets as he drove through Sanaa yesterday afternoon. Mr Yadomi escaped unharmed, a party spokesman said.

The Joint Meeting Parties, a coalition of the six main opposition parties, blamed the attack on "remnants of the family regime" of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been recovering in Saudi Arabia after he was targeted in an explosion last month. The JMP described the shooting as an attempt to "embroil the country in a civil war" and said responsibility lay with Mr Saleh's son and nephew, who control the Yemen's military and security. There were no government officials available for comment.

The attack came a day after the opposition attempted to fill the country's power vacuum by announcing a "national council" - an alliance to unite the demands of Yemen's various anti-government forces, the JMP said.

The National Council for the Forces of the Revolution would work on escalating the revolution against the regime, said Mohammed Al Sabri, a JMP leader, after it was unveiled on Tuesday.

"Committees have been set up to start dialogue with all the forces of the revolution including the [defected] military, political parties, the youth protesters, and all the forces inside and outside the country," Mr Al Sabri said. "Our objective is to unite all these forces to achieve the goals of the revolution and overthrow the rest of this regime."

The announcement appeared to be an attempt to break the stalemate gripping the country with Mr Saleh and his family clinging on to the strings of power despite months of anti-government protests.

Mr Al Sabri said the council's 450 to 500 members would be named in two weeks and they would set up an executive committee that would lead the revolution. He said the council could decide to form a shadow government. "All possibilities are open," said Mr Al Sabri.

Tarik Al Shami, a spokesman of Mr Saleh's General People's Congress, described the setting up of the council as an attempted "coup against the constitution's legitimacy".

"Dialogue is the only way to get out from this crisis," Mr Al Shami said.

But a return to talks appears a long way off, with the JMP threatening to escalate peaceful protests in the coming days. In another act of defiance, youth protest leaders, frustrated by the JMP's lack of progress, announced on Saturday the formation of a 17-member presidential transitional council to represent the tens of thousands of demonstrators who have filled public squares across Yemen since late January.

Mr Saleh has backed out three times from signing a Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered transition plan in which he would step down after 33 years. Under the plan, the vice-president would formally take power, a unity government would be formed with the ruling and opposition parties and elections would be held within two months.

Mr Saleh, who has been recovering from his wounds in Riyadh since the attack on his palace on June 5, appeared on television on July 7 for the first time since the attack, with bandages covering his burns.

As the opposition hardens its position, Mr Saleh's regime is also offering tough rhetoric. Yahia Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, Mr Saleh's nephew and commander of the central security forces, slammed the revolt against his uncle in a speech on Tuesday and described the protesters as "bulls" and "corrupts".