Yemen: Civil War Is Upon The Land

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May 31, 2011:  In the capital, the ceasefire broke down as gunfire was heard near the compound of a Hashed tribal leader. There was also fighting around the headquarters of the national police. Peace talks between Saleh and all the pro-democracy groups has broken down, and now it looks like civil war is upon the land. Opposition leaders are accusing president Saleh  of dragging the country into civil war. Saleh is seen as desperate to hang onto power, no matter what the cost.  

The Hasheds are the largest tribe in Yemen, and were long a major supporter of Saleh. But more and more of the Hashed clans have turned against Saleh over the last six months, and now the senior leadership of the Hasheds has called on the entire tribe to take up their guns and depose  Saleh. Despite defections by key military and tribal leaders, Saleh still controls the majority of organized troops in the country, in addition to the national police and most government institutions. But this won't go on much longer. Loyalty to Saleh is often just loyalty to a paycheck, and with oil no longer flowing, Saleh will soon run out of cash. When that is gone, so is his control over the government.

In the south (Abyan province), pro-al Qaeda tribesmen have moved into Zinjibar, the provincial capital, and fought troops belonging to the brigade stationed there. The rebel tribesmen appear to control most of Zinjibar. This followed three days of street fighting with the soldiers, who are now under siege in their base. The air force sent fighter-bombers to attack rebel fighters in Zinjibar. Many of the towns 20,000 residents have fled because of the fighting. The government says al Qaeda has taken over Zinjibar, but it's apparently anti-government tribesmen who accept help from Yemeni Islamic radical groups (some of them associated with al Qaeda).

There is fighting all over the country, as small groups of armed tribesmen attack military checkpoints or patrols. This is causing over a hundred casualties a day, but isn't really noticed because gunfire is a familiar sound out in the countryside.

May 30, 2011: Explosions were heard north of the capital, in Hashed tribal territory where much fighting took place last week.

May 29, 2011: In the center of Taez, capital of Taez province (inland, near the Red Sea coast) troops fired on a four-month old sit-in, killing over twenty people.  This led to tribesmen driving government officials out of the city. Saleh declared that Taez city had been taken over by al Qaeda.

May 28, 2011: Opposition tribal leaders told Western diplomats that most tribes opposed al Qaeda and that a new Yemeni government would be willing to continue fighting the Islamic terrorists. For a long time, the current president (Saleh) has insisted that any other Yemeni government but his would let the Islamic radicals do whatever they wanted. Dig a little and you find that al Qaeda wants to establish a religious dictatorship in Yemen, something nearly all tribal leaders, and most tribesmen, oppose.

May 27, 2011: After five days of heavy fighting, anti-government leaders of the Hashed tribe agreed to a ceasefire. There have been over 500 casualties and over a hundred dead during the recent fighting with the Hasheds, in and north of the capital. The ceasefire will be implemented over the weekend, as tribesmen withdraw from government buildings they occupied by force.

The Indian government advised the 14,000 Indian citizens in Yemen to leave until peace returns.

May 23, 2011:  The Hashed tribe, the largest in the country, has turned on the government. Hashed tribesmen are found all over the country, but many live in the capital, and just north of that city (Sanaa). Many of these tribesmen have grabbed their weapons (nearly every adult Yemeni has a firearm) and started firing on soldiers and police.

May 22, 2011: The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) has halted efforts to negotiate a peace deal, after president Saleh once again backed out of a peace deal at the last minute. The GCC has come up with several plans that Saleh and the opposition said they were willing to accept, but each time, Saleh backed out at the last moment, often demanding new concessions as he did so. Thus the opposition, and the GCC, no longer believe that Saleh is serious about leaving peacefully, and must be expelled by force.

 

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