Clashes between government troops and rival tribesmen erupted anew in the Yemeni capital early Thursday and artillery shelling left at least one person dead and seven wounded.
Pictured: Yemeni protesters chant slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Heavy gunfire and explosions started early in the morning in Sanaa’s Hassaba neighborhood, spreading to nearby streets in the capital. Hassaba is a stronghold of Yemen’s most powerful tribal confederation, the Hashid, led by Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar who has sided with the opposition.
Yemen has been rocked by months of near daily mass protests calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ouster, plunging the impoverished nation into deep political crisis. Armed tribesmen and defecting military units who support the protesters have joined the fray in a dangerous escalation that has raised prospects of a civil war.
The office of the commander of the 1st Armored Division led by the renegade army general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar said one of his personal guards was killed and five others were wounded in Thursday’s clashes. Gen. al-Ahmar is not related to the tribal chief.
One shell struck a house in Sanaa’s Soufan neighborhood close to Yemen’s state television building, wounding two people, said Mohammed Younis, a resident of the area.
Younis said he heard ambulance sirens but the narrow alleys and government checkpoints in the area prevented the ambulances from reaching the wounded. Columns of smoke and fire were billowing from the area, Younis said.
In Hassaba, fighting was continuing between elite Republican Guard troops led by Saleh’s son Ahmed and the soldiers of al-Ahmar, the tribal chief.
Several streets around Hassaba, Soufan and other areas in Sanaa were empty because of the violence, and almost all shops and government offices were closed. Checkpoints from rival sides prevented people from entering some areas.
But streams of protesters found alternate streets around Sanaa to hold their daily march on Thursday, calling for Saleh to go. Scores of women and children were seen among the protesters.
“We need safety … but Saleh is pitiless,” shouted the crowd.
There were similar demonstrations Thursday in other Yemeni cities and towns, including Damar, Ibb, Saada and Bayda.
Yemen’s turmoil began in February as the unrest spreading throughout the Arab world set off largely peaceful protests in this unstable corner of the Arabian Peninsula that is also home to an al-Qaida offshoot blamed for several nearly successful attempted attacks in the United States.