Yemeni protesters demand interim council


Yemeni protesters demonstrated on Monday demanding the formation of an interim ruling council to prevent the wounded president from returning to power and the removal of his relatives from positions of authority. Meanwhile, six soldiers were killed in clashes between troops and suspected Al-Qaeda-linked militants near the gunmen-held southern city of Zinjibar. “Raise your voice and demand a transitional council,” demonstrators chanted as they marched in Sanaa’s Hayel Street, near the main protest centre at University Square, an AFP correspondent reported. Organisers said tens of thousands of people took part.
Protesters who for five months have been demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been pressing his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to set up a transitional council since Saleh was flown to Riyadh earlier his month for treatment for blast wounds sustained in an explosion in his palace. The demonstrators also chanted slogans calling for the removal of Saleh relatives from security bodies, including his son Ahmed and nephew Ammar, who head the elite Presidential Guard and National Security force respectively. “Ahmed and Ammar, get out!” they chanted. Mohammed Qahtan, the spokesman of the parliamentary opposition, said Saleh’s relatives believed their authority to be hereditary.
“The fact that the sons consider power to be hereditary hinders the transfer of power,” he told AFP. Saleh was flown to Riyadh on June 4 on board a Saudi medical aircraft, a day after an explosion at a mosque in his Sanaa presidential compound. He has not been seen in public since then. Officials insist that Saleh will return to Yemen to assume his post soon, but a Saudi official told AFP last week that the veteran leader will not go back home. On Friday, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis held protests across the impoverished state, pushing for the swift formation of the interim council.
Living conditions in Yemen have worsened, with a severe shortage of power, fuel and water.
Meanwhile, fighting raged in Zinjibar in the lawless southern region of Abyan, where gunmen suspected of links to Al-Qaeda overran most of the city. An officer from the 119th Artillery Brigade said army units “fought fierce battles on Sunday night with Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of Islamic Sharia law) gunmen connected to Al-Qaeda.”
“Six members of the brigade were killed, including Colonel Jamal al-Jaafi, and eight others were wounded,” he told AFP, adding that the militants had also suffered casualties.