x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Yemen braces for fallout from Libya

Tanks and troops flood Yemen's city streets in response to Libyan rebel advances in Tripoli.

Libyan rebel fighters seen in front of the burning car after they were attacked by the forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi in downtown Tripoli on Monday. AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev
Libyan rebel fighters seen in front of the burning car after they were attacked by the forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi in downtown Tripoli on Monday. AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev

SANAA // Thousands of troops were deployed on to the streets of Yemen's capital and other cities yesterday as Libyan rebels consolidated their hold on the Tripoli thousands of miles away.

Witnesses in Sanaa said that more than 60 tanks, sent from Republican Guard bases in neighbouring Dhammar province, were seen entering the presidential palace yesterday morning.

Dozens of armoured vehicles, accompanied by troops, were stationed on main roads.

A senior Yemen security official said that the government was prepared for a worst-case scenario.

"We watched closely the rapid fall in Libya, and are learning and preparing how to plan our upcoming steps," said the security staff member, who is not authorised to talk to media.

Checkpoints were set up on all main road in the provinces of Sanaa, Aden, Baitha, Hajjah, and Hodeida.

Tribesmen travelling in groups of more than five were rejected entry into the capital, out of fear that the opposition parties might use tribes in any coup attempt against the regime.

Military aircraft were flying continuously over areas where opposition protesters were gathered in Taiz and Ibb provinces.

"The planes were flying very low above our heads. The ruling family knows its turn is soon," said Mohammed Badani, a youth leader in Ibb province.

Arhab, a tribal region 30 kilometres north of Sanaa, was bombarded by government forces yesterday, after tribes attacked government bases and seized a large number of its weapons only hours after the rebels took control of most of the Libyan capital.

Tribal fighters damaged two tanks and captured six Republican Guard soldiers yesterday morning.

Government spokesman Abdu Ganadi said that the opposition parties are calling for a peaceful transfer of power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh while, at the same time, killing soldiers and attacking government military bases.

"Is this the peaceful revolution the opposition was seeking? Killing soldiers and civilians is not peaceful," he said.

Mr Ganadi insisted that no change in power would take place in Yemen without elections.

Hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters marched the streets of Yemen's cities yesterday celebrating the success of the Libyan rebels, chanting slogans such as "Oh Saleh, you will follow Qaddafi".

Sit-ins by protesters, which began about six months ago calling for the removal of Mr Saleh, continue in 15 of Yemen's 21 provinces.

Yemen's opposition said that the revolution in Libya inspired them to continue their protests until the regime is ousted. "The opposition is now regrouping and putting an end to all differences within them before week's end," said Ali Jaradi, senior Islah party official.

He said that the opposition Joint Meeting Parties plans to rework its newly formed national council in an effort to appeal to all political factions.

The council was formed last week to give the international community an option to lead the country should Mr Saleh's government fall. However, at least 35 of the 143 members have withdrawn over political differences.

Mr Saleh, receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia after an attack on his Sanaa compound in June, faces continued pressure to sign a power transition deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council. But, in a recent speech from Saudi Arabia, Mr Saleh set more conditions for his resignation.

 

foreign.desk@thenational.ae