x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Yemen’s south in turmoil as tribal leader joins calls for new government

Tens of thousands of Yemenis protest in Sana'a yesterday to demand the establishment of an interim ruling council to oversee the transfer of power from the Saleh regime.

SANA'A // A powerful tribal leader yesterday joined protesters' demands for the formation of a transitional government in Yemen as violence and protests continued across the country.

Sheikh Hashim Abdullah Al Ahmar, a prominent member of the leading family in the Hashed tribal confederation, said that with the absence of Yemen's injured president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, "the revolution has achieved one of its objectives".

Mr Saleh was flown to Saudi Arabia on June 4 after being wounded in a bomb blast in the presidential compound. Although government officials have insisted the president will soon return, Mr Saleh's critics and rivals have urged the country to move on without him.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis protested in Sana'a yesterday to demand the establishment of an interim ruling council to oversee the transfer of power from the Saleh regime. They also called for the removal Mr Saleh's sons and nephews who still control much of Yemen's army and security forces.

Speaking to the crowd in Sana'a, Sheikh Al Ahmar said: "We stand with the revolutionaries, whatever sacrifices we ought to make."

Sultan Al Barakani, assistant secretary general of the ruling General People's Congress, said the government would refuse any talks on power transfer before Mr Saleh's return. "The health of the president is fine. We are sure of this, but it is the doctors who will decide when he can come back," Mr Al Barakani said.

The formation of a transition council, made up from the ruling party, the opppostion and other political factions is a requirement of a GCC-brokered peace plan that Mr Saleh has rejected three times.

As the political crisis deepens in Sana'a, attacks continued in Yemen's unsettled south. Four people, including three soldiers, were killed in violence across the port city of Aden yesterday, officials and medics said. A suicide car bomb exploded at an army post killing the soldiers, a security official said.

The attack also left 10 soldiers wounded and burnt one of seven tanks stationed there, an officer from the police's criminal investigation department said.

Medics on the scene said the attack sparked gun battles between the army and gunmen that left one civilian killed and four others wounded.

Also in Aden, witnesses said one protester was killed and 12 others wounded yesterday when security forces opened fire on thousands of mourners attending the funeral of a member of the separatist Southern Movement, Ahmed Al Darwish, who died in police custody a year ago.

Al Darwish was arrested after an attack on intelligence headquarters in Aden in June 2010 in which 11 people were killed.

Yemen's Southern Movement, or al-harakat al-janubiyya, is an umbrella group for several anti-government groups that formed during the 1994 civil war between northern and southern Yemen.

Al Darwish died in custody one day after being detained.

* With additional reporting from Agence-France Presse and Reuters.