Yemen truce ends with blasts, stokes civil war worries


Street fighting raged across the Yemeni capital on Tuesday after a tenuous truce broke down between tribal groups and forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, edging the impoverished Arab country closer to civil war. U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said his office had received as yet not fully confirmed reports that more than 50 people had been killed by Yemeni government forces since Sunday.
Global powers have been pressing Saleh to sign a Gulf-led deal to hand over power to try to stem the growing chaos in Yemen, home to al Qaeda militants and neighbour to the world’s biggest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia. The turmoil has been a factor keeping up oil prices on Tuesday, traders said.
“The ceasefire agreement has ended,” a government official said on Tuesday adding that tribal groups had gained control of a government building. On Tuesday, there were three main flashpoints in the troubled country with street fighting in the capital; government troops gunning down protesters in Taiz and a battle with al Qaeda and Islamic militants in the coastal city of Zinjibar. A senior U.N. official condemned the violence by Saleh’s forces, but the wily veteran has defied calls from global leaders, elements in his own military and tens of thousands of Yemeni protesters to end his nearly 33-year-rule which has brought the state close to financial ruin.
Overnight battles in the capital brought an end to the truce brokered at the weekend. More than 115 people were killed last week in urban battles with machine guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades in the bloodiest fighting since anti-government protests began months ago. In Sanaa, several explosions were heard over the staccato of automatic gun fire in the district of Hasaba, the scene of nearly a week of fighting between Saleh’s forces and tribesmen. The fighting was too heavy for officials to bring bodies off the street or provide casualty figures. “Last night’s clashes were the fiercest so far,” Mohammed al-Quraiti, a Hasaba resident, told Reuters.
The fighting last week between members of the powerful Hashed tribe led by Sadeq al-Ahmar and Saleh’s security forces widened to areas outside the capital where tribesmen squared off against Saleh’s elite Republican Guard. “The situation in Yemen seems to be deteriorating. The problem with Yemen is that it is next to Saudi Arabia, and it has been a source of terrorist attacks against Saudi Arabia,” said Tony Nunan, a Tokyo-based risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp.
TROUBLE IN TAIZ: Saleh’s forces fired on hundreds of protesters in Taiz, about 200 km (120 miles) south of the capital, who were trying to gather at the focal point of rallies dubbed “Freedom Square”, 0witnesses and a Reuters cameraman in the city said. At least three people have been killed and scores wounded in the latest fighting, medical sources said. U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said dozens may have been killed since Sunday when troops using bulldozers and assault rifles began a violent crackdown on protesters. “The UN human rights office has received reports, which remain to be fully verified, that more than 50 people have been killed since Sunday in Taiz by Yemeni Army, Republican Guards and other government-affiliated elements,” Pillay said in an internet posting.