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YEMEN – News

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YEMEN NEWS

YEMEN IN CHAOS

TIMELINE 24th JANUARY 2015

Since I last wrote about Yemen in 2011, the country has gone through a number of complex gyrations, but none of them have produced a government with any lasting stability.  Now it looks as though it is on the verge of tribal warfare with an active Al Qaeda branch as well. This article, from Near Eastern Outlook Yemen news, lays out the latest position.

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SALEH AT LAST STEPS DOWN BUT ANGERS PROTESTERS AS HE ESCAPES PROSECUTION WITH AN IMMUNITY DEAL:

TIMELINE – 24th November 2011 17.45 GMT:

On Wednesday President Saleh finally, after months of prevarication and an attempt to assassinate him, signed an agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council to stand down from power in Yemen in return for immunity from prosecution.

Under the terms of the agreement Saleh will effectively hand over all “necessary constitutional powers” to his deputy, Vice-President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, with inmediate effect but will remain as a figuehead president for further 90 days.

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Saleh Finally Signs a Deal to Stand Down – AFP

In that time Mr. Hadi, as a temporary president, will have to form a power sharing government in which the opposition will appoint a prime minister and start a national dialogue to start a process of constitutional reform.

In the long term the presidential system will be replaced with proportional representation and a 2 tier parliament.  The BBC has a video report HERE:

More dificult for Mr. Hadi is negotiating the demilitarisation of the capital Sanaa and dealing with Islamist unrest in the south of the country.

General Ali Mohsin and the Ahmar family have armed control of the northern and western suburbs of the city and Saleh’s son Ahmed Ali, who controls the Republican Guard, is going to be very reluctant to give up power.

As if that were not enough to deal with, many of the young people of Yemen, who have been protesting on and off since January, are furious that Saleh is to escape prosecution for all the protesters that have been killed and on possible corruption charges.

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Angry Protests at Saleh’s Immunity from Prosecution – Reuters

As tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets today marching from their base camp in Change Square, at least 5 were killed and 34 wounded as gunmen in civilian clothes opened fire from rooftops and moving cars.

President Saleh, who is in Riyadh the capital of Saudi Arabia where he signed the deal, ordered an enquiry into the shootings but he himself, after 33 years in power is expected to leave for New York shortly to continue treatment for the injuries received in the bomb attack in June.

Around Zinjibar in the south of Yemen today the military claimed to have killed 17 Islamists controlling part of the country there in an exchange of shell and gunfire.

Al Jazeera has a comprehensive video overview of Saleh’s time in power HERE: 

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SALEH MAKES ANOTHER VAGUE PROMISE TO LEAVE OFFICE SOON:

TIMELINE 9th October 2011 11.47 GMT:

In a TV broadcast yesterday, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who returned unexpectedly in September from Saudi Arabia where he was recuperating from a bomb attack, said “I will be leaving power in the coming days.”

However, most commentators remain sceptical as Saleh has said this several times before and done nothing but leave his people angry and frustrated at his intransigence.

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Saleh Says He Will “Leave Soon” – Reuters

On 3 occasions in the last year he agreed to a Gulf Co-operation Council document to arrange an orderly transfer of power but each time, at the last minute, backed down.

In stark contrast to his actions, he stated on television yesterday “I reject power and I will continue to reject it”.

Many believe that his speech is a manoeuvre to deflect criticism at the UN. U.N. Yemen envoy Jamal Benomar has just spent days fruitlessly shuttling back and forth between Saleh’s ruling party and the Opposition and come away empty handed.

His report to the UN may trigger a UN Security Council resolution calling on Saleh to go.

This was the first occasion that Saleh had appeared on TV with his head uncovered since receiving treatment for injuries sustained in the bomb attack. His hands, which were severely burnt, remained covered under tan gloves.

For the many thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in Yemen, where 40% of the population lives on $2 a day or less, Saleh remains the problem, not the solution.

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SALEH LEAVES HOSPITAL BUT US SAYS “STAY WITH SAUDIS”:

FIGHTING BREAKS OUT AGAIN BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND TRIBAL FORCES:

TIMELINE: 8th August 2011 14.58 GMT:

President Saleh, who was severely burnt and injured in a bomb attack 2 months ago, left the military hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday where he has been receiving extensive treatment, including plastic surgery.

A Saudi spokesman said Saleh would remain in Riyadh “at a temporary residence for a recovery period” but did not indicate for how long or whether he had any plans to return to Yemen.

According to Reuters, the US government has persuaded Saleh not to return to Yemen and his mind has been greatly concentrated by TV images (not incidentally shown on Yemen state media according to the BBC) of former president Mubarak in a cage and on trial in a Cairo court room. (See below)

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President Saleh Now and Before

The US pressure has not been publicized in order not to put Saleh “in a corner”.

Saleh has a reputation for being extremely stubborn, so much so that he failed to sign an agreement to stand down, mediated by the Gulf Cooperation Council, three times.

Apparently, US sources are saying that Saleh has been persuaded to stay in Saudi Arabia but he will have to sign the Gulf deal before he can remain permanently.

There are proposals that the deal be modified to give him and his family greater immunity from prosecution.

FIGHTING BREAKS OUT AGAIN BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND TRIBAL FORCES:

Co-incidentally, immediately before Saleh left hospital, fighting broke out once again on Friday between the Republican Guard, headed by Saleh’s son Ahmed, and forces loyal to Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ahmar.

Events started to deteriorate once again when Republican Guards moved in numbers towards the Al-Hassaba district where the Sheikh’s powerbase is located.

As the Sheik’s men dug trenches to protect the area, supporters of President Saleh also shelled the house of the deputy speaker of parliament, Hemyar Al-Ahmar, the Sheikh’s brother.

The attacks were seen as being a violation of the truce between the two sides, which was entered into on June 4th.

By Saturday the threat of violence had escalated and planes were diverted from Yemen’s airport which is not far from the neighbourhood where the clashes occurred. Three Republican Guards were injured Friday and an armoured vehicle burnt out.

So conflict continues and the protesters who came out on the streets for months to call for Saleh’s departure have not gone away either.

On Friday they reappeared in their tens of thousands on Sixtieth Street in Sanaa, in searing heat, to call for Saleh’s departure. At the same time they collected money in upturned umbrellas to support victims injured in the disturbances in other parts of Yemen.

Al Jazeera has a series of photographs on Flikr portraying the first Friday of Ramadan in Yemen HERE:

NEWS COVERAGE OF MUBARAK TRIAL BLOCKED IN YEMEN, BAHRAIN AND SYRIA, SAYS BBC:

Lastly, the most riveting news story across the world and especially the Middle East and North Africa last week was the opening of the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons in Cairo at the Police Academy. In many Middle Eastern and African countries the proceedings were carried live as they happened.

However, according to the BBC “there was no mention whatsoever of the Mubarak trial on the main news channels in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen” (EDITOR: I wonder why? Though I have since heard that many in Bahrain saw it on the NileSat channels)

So for those of you in Yemen who have been deprived of the information by your state controlled media, here is what it looks like when a former oppressive ruler, responsible for killing many of his citizens, is caged in a court room for his trial.

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Hosni Mubarak Caged for His Trial in Cairo – AFP

The BBC carries a full report of the Mubarak trial events HERE:

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TRIBESMEN SUPPORT REVOLUTION IN TAIZ:

SALEH APPROACHED AGAIN TO STAND DOWN:

TIMELINE – 11th July 2011 09.54 GMT:

Shelling and mortar fire by the Republican Guard of the civilian area of Al-Rawdhah in the city of Taiz over the weekdend has reportedly killed 2 people and injured at least 10 others.

Fighting has also taken place between the Republican Guard and tribal gunmen loyal to the Revolution of the Youth on Al-Setten and AL-Khamseen streets in Taiz, one of the cities in Yemen that has been most anti – President Saleh.

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Women in Taiz Hold Candle-lit Protest Against Saleh – Reuters

Meanwhile women gathered to hold a candle-lit rally in the centre of the city on Saturday, continuing their demands for the President to step down.

A recent report says that a US representative has met with President Saleh in Saudi Arabia and “urged” him to sign a deal to transfer power, but as yet no details of the exchange are available.

In the very south of the country around the port of Aden, an army officer and 2 of his soldiers are reported killed in an ambush by armed militants. 

Human Rights Watch, which has been observing fighting in the area, says that it believes that many civilians have been caught in the crossfire between the two sides.  Many residents have fled the fighting in Abyan province to find shelter further north.

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SALEH REAPPEARS AS CHANGED MAN:

IS SALEH PLAYING FOR TIME ONCE AGAIN?:

TIMELINE – 9th July 2011 06.54 GMT:

On Thursday this week President Saleh appeared on TV in a short recorded speech filmed in his hospital suite in Saudi Arabia.

Clearly, as can be seen from the pictures below, he is not a well man and questions have been raised whether, even if the people wanted him back, would he be fit enough to take back the running of his Presidential office?

In the video, his face is much darker than before, the top of his head and all his hair are completely covered, his hands are heavily bandaged and he does not move either of his arms.  He admitted in the interview that he had already undergone 8 operatons.

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President Saleh Now and Before

In a rambling speech, he talked vaguely of “dialogue” (Editor: This seems to becoming the oppressive regime’s word for “prevarication” and “playing for time” throughout the Middle East e.g. Syria and Bahrain) and “sharing power”.

Saleh, in his 7 minute speech, accused “terrorist elements” for the personal bomb attack on himself that left him severely wounded and told his countrymen that, “Many have understood democracy incorrectly, through incorrect practices.  (Editor: As though he were an “expert”  exponent of the democratic process!).

Returning to his theme of “dialogue” and without naming his opponents, he said, “Where are the conscious people? Where are the honest people? Where are the believers and the men who fear Allah? Why don’t they stand with dialogue? “

His reappearance produced celebratory gunfire from his supporters in Sanaa, which apparently killed four (a frequent accidental occurence across the Middle East) but also rival demonstrations yesterday from those both for and against his rule.

Where next is the question?  As described below, Yemen is in chaos, with severe shortages of fuel and food and an militant uprising in the south. 

And while Saleh is still hospitalised in Saudi Arabia, he clings to government through his son and nephews who still have significant power bases in the Yemeni military.

As well as coninuing clashes between Saleh’s security forces and armed tribesmen, who are ostensibly supporting the pro-democracy demonstrators, in Yemen’s second city Taiz, a full scale war continues in the southern province of Abyan.

Armed militants, which some believe are allied to Al Quaeda, have been exploiting the power vacuum created by five months of demonstrations and Saleh’s absence from the country, and have taken over the southern towns of Jaar and Zinjibar. 

However, the Government claimed to have killed more than 40 militants this week with air strikes.

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YEMEN DESCENDING INTO CHAOS:

GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF DELIBERATE MEDIA BLACK OUT:

TIMELINE – 4th July 2011 20.03 GMT:

The security situation in Yemen is deteriorating by the day.

1. With an injured President away in Saudi Arabia who has refused to hand effective authority and power to his stand in, Vice President Hadi,

2. the President’s family in Sanaa manipulating things in the background,

3. massive shortages of fuel and even food and water,

4. regular power cuts, rocketing unemployment,

5. and ongoing battles in the south of the country with Al Quaeda style insurgents

Many now believe that slowly Yemen is descending into chaos and heading for complete economic collapse.

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In many ways, this is just what President Saleh wants – he can say that the country can’t do without him and persuade western powers, particularly the US, that he must remain in power to keep Al Quaeda at bay.

Unfortunantly for him, that is not what the vast majority of his countrymen and women want.  After 5 months they are still demonstrating, almost on a daily basis for him and his family to go.

Over the weekend thousands of protesters camped out in and around the central square in Sanaa.  Tired of waiting for the ineffective Vice – President to come forward with some sort of plan for a “transitional Council”, a block of Opposition groups has formed its own committee to come up with a plan of action.

Mohammed al-Sabry, speaking on behalf ot the groups, said a plan had been discussed and referred back to the committee for further revisions.

It was also reported that the Opposition were looking at amendments to the Gulf Co-operation Council proposals – proposals which President Saleh agreed to but failed to sign three times before he was injured in a bomb blast.

Meanwhile, fighting coninues in around the towns of Zinjibar and Jaar in the southern province of Abyan.

So far at least 135 Government security personnel have been killed and currently another 50 Yemni soldiers are missing after clashes with militants last Wednesday around the al-Wahda football stadium on the outskirts of Zinjibar.

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There are also reports that militants  surrounded the southern base of the 25th mechanised Brigade on Sunday and were trying to take control of their equipment. The soldiers situation was described as “critical” with shortages of both water and fuel.

While some have suggested that the Government is exaggerating the Al – Quaeda threat in order to provoke the US into keeping Saleh in power, thousands of others demonstrated outside Vice-President Hadi’s residence today. demanding that the Government take firmer action.

They accused the authorities of even facilitating the takeover by al-Qaeda elements in Zinjibar for their own ends.

The conflict that broke out  between the Government and tribesmen earlier this year in Sanaa, resulting in fierce gun battles and many deaths and casualties, spread to the city of Taiz, 200 kilometes to the south at the weekend.

When Government forces attempted to clear demonstrators also camping out in the central square there, armed tribesmen came to their aid, resulting in 4 soldiers dead and 8 wounded.

There also appears to be an attempt by the Yemeni Govenment to create a media black-out to draw international attention away from what is happening in Yemen.

Reporters Without Borders has reported the following events since pro – democracy protests started 5 months ago:

* Two journalists have been killed. They were Mohamed Yahia Al-Malayia, the correspondent of the newspaper Al-Salam,
and Jamal Al-Sharabi, a news photographer working for the independent daily Al-Masdar, who were among the fatalities
when government security forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration outside the university in Sanaa’s Change
Square on 18 March.

* At least eight foreign reporters have been deported.

* At least six Yemeni journalists have been kidnapped.

* At least 50 Yemeni journalists have been physically attacked.

* The Republican Guard has seized tens of thousands of copies of Yemeni daily and weekly newspapers.

* Access to news websites has often been blocked. Al-Masdar Online has been blocked five times. Mareb Press has also
been blocked several times.

* The satellite TV station Al-Jazeera was forced to close its Sanaa bureau on 25 March. All of its journalists had their
accreditation withdrawn.

For the full Reporter Without Borders article click HERE:

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TIMELINE – 30th June 2011 09.05 GMT:

PRESIDENT SALEH PLAYING FOR TIME AS USUAL:

In something of a “damp squib” of the promised “media appearance” by President Saleh, all that was forthcoming was a statement via the Foreign Minister and broadcast on state TV.

“We discussed the Gulf initiative, and [Saleh] called for the opening of a dialogue with the opposition in order to agree on a vehicle by which to implement the Gulf initiative.” He also said about Saleh’s health that it was “good and in continuous improvement.”

This is all contradicted by an interview with Vice-President Hadi conducted by CNN.  In the interview, Hadi says that Saleh’s injuries in the bomb blast were so serious that he has no idea when the President will return.

Hadi also said it was not true he had no power, he had been given “full authority to sign a new, U.N.-sponsored peace proposal.” However, it is unlikely to go through because it is even worse than the Gulf Cooperation Council proposals already objected to by Opposition parties.

Under the UN proposal Saleh would only leave office once a “new President has been elected.” Under the Gulf proposals, Saleh would have stood down after 30 days and new elections would have been held within another 60 days.

 

Vice-President Hadi also admitted that the Yemeni government has lost control of much of the country, including five provinces,  but also claimed that President Saleh still retains “widespread support”.

Regarding the conflict in the south, where 27 Government soldiers and 17 insurgents are reported dead in clashes around a football stadium at Zinjibar, Hadi said the US were helping them by using voice recognition drones.

When the drones picked up from communications a certain insurgent voice they could recognise, a missile was fired to destroy the target.

For the full report by CNN’s Nic Robertson, plus video  click HERE:

True to form, is President Saleh just maneuvering for more time as usual?

More has been revealed about the attacks on villages to the north of Sanaa by Government forces on Monday and Tuesday killing 3 people.

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According to a local tribal leader, Ali Youssef, Republican Guards, which are commanded by Saleh’s son Ahmed, destroyed 48 houses and caused many to flee the area or take shelter in local caves.

The raids are apparently in retaliation for the tribesmen’s part in blocking roads and preventing soldiers from the local army bases reaching Sanaa in the heavy fighting last month between Government troops and the Hashid tribe led by Sheikh Ahmar.

A spokesman for the visiting UN Human Rights mission in Sanaa said, after meeting representatives of all sides, “Each side blames the other. There have been violations and people have died and others were beaten. We are trying to find out why this has happened and who are those responsible for  it.”

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TIMELINE – 29th June 2011 21.50 GMT:

21 KILLED IN FIGHTING AROUND ZINJIBAR:

Heavy fighting near Zinjibar has killed 21 people and wounded many more.  4 of these were civilians killed when a Yemeni airforce jet mistakenly targeted a bus carrying people fleeing the fighting near the town. 12 passengers were wounded.

A further 15 soldiers died together with 2 of the suspected Al Quaeda militants the Government is fighting in an ongoing attempt to wrest back control of the southern city.

The militants were said to have taken over a stadium used by the Government as a weapons store to supply its armed forces.

In another attack a colonel, Khaled al-Yafi’i, who commanded a military post in Aden, was killed with a car bomb outside his home. Four other soldiers and a civilian were also killed in the explosion and 16 wounded.

There are also reports that some villagers in small communities around Sanaa are sleeping in caves, saying that the Government has fired rockets, of which they have proof, at their villages and mosques.

Meanwhile were there more demonstrations in the capital calling for the release of protesters  arrested and still held in prison from demonstrations earlier in the year.

Breaking reports tonight that there is also shelling of Taiz taking place with shells landing near “Freedom Square”.

The promised broadcast from Saudi Arabia by President Saleh “within 48 hours” has yet to materialise.

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TIMELINE – UPDATED 28th  June 11.03 GMT:

SALEH’S SON “SUPPORTS TALKS” WITH OPPOSITION:

News agencies are reporting that Ahmed Saleh, the President’s son and also Commander of the Republican Guard, has  “expressed his support” to the attempts by the Opposition, together with Vice-President Hadi, to  “reach a solution to the current crisis.”

The statement was released by his office yesterday, in advance of an awaited media appearance by his father, President Saleh, “within 48 hours.”

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However, the Deputy Information Minister was also reported as saying the no transfer of power would take place as long as the President lay injured in Saudi Arabia.

“Our moral values do not allow us to discuss a transfer of power as the president lies on his sick bed,” he said.

(EDITOR: …but the same moral values do not prevent  the killing of innocent, unarmed, protesting  civilians by Government troops apparently!)

Disruption has continued in Sanaa with no electricity supplies in the last two days and great difficulty in finding any petrol at all for cars and generators.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com

 

Meanwhile in Taiz to the south, a massive demonstration once again called for the departure of President Saleh from office.

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TIMELINE – 26th June 2011 12.24 GMT:

SALEH TO AGREE TO “TRANSITION”?

The Media Secretary to the Yemen Government, Ahmed al-Sufi, announced today that President Saleh, despite his injuries, would make a media appearance “within 48 hours”.

Some reports say that he is expected to agree to a transfer of power, but this remains unconfirmed.

Yemen, which is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, has high levels of unemployment, malnutrition and corruption.  Despite being an oil producing country, Yemenis queue for hours to obtain fuel for their vehicles.

Because of the current unrest the unemployment rate is estimated to have reached 60% and a once buoyant tourist industry has now completely collapsed.

Yemen government forces have reportedly killed three of the suspected 60 Al Quaeda  prisoners who escaped through a tunnel from a prison in the southern town of Mukalla on Wednesday.

TIMELINE – 25th June 2011 13.35 GMT:

Following demonstrations yesterday which were quelled by security forces, it is reported today that at least five people are dead after a car bomb exploded at an army checkpoint.

16 others were wounded, including 13 army personnel.

The Yemeni Government has been quick to blame Al Quaeda for the blast, but Opposition groups say the Al Quaeda threat is being deliberately exaggerated in order to retain support from overseas governments, particularly the US.

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The Government has also issued an arrest warrant for Hasan Zaid, the leader of the Haq Party, claiming that during the recent protests he incited demonstrators to occupy government buildings.

Zaid has rejected the claims and said that the Government is deliberately trying to put pressure on Opposition leaders.

He pointed out that Sheikh Ahmar’s tribesmen had occupied four ministry buildings during recent fighting in Sanaa, yet no  arrest warrant had been issued.

TIMELINE – 24th June 2011 14.53 GMT:

There are reports of clashes this morning between demonstrators and Government security forces backed by tanks in the southern port city of Aden. At least six people have been wounded.

At a funeral attended by many thousands, also in the south, it is reported that security forces opened fire and at least one mourner is dead.

After US Secretary of State, Jeffrey Feltman’s call for an “immediate” transfer of power yesterday, an aide of President Saleh said that there would be no transition of power without the President, who is still recovering from his wounds in Saudi Arabia.

The UN has announced that it is sending a mission to  Sanaa on Monday for a 10 day visit to assess the human rights situation.

TIMELINE – 23rd June 2011 16.44 GMT:

Jeffrey D. Feltman, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Afffairs, today called for an “immediate” transfer of power after talks with Vice-President Hadi, and  Yemen’s Foreign Minister, Abubakr al-Qirbi.

He also spoke to President Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was thought to be in line to succeed his father before the recent protests.

Before flying on to Riyadh for further discussions on the subject of Yemen with Saudi officials, Mr Feltman added that any decision on the replacement of President Saleh was one for the people of Yemen, but that the US expected the President  “to take a decision himself that was in the best interests of the Yemeni people.”

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Diplomats helping the Yemeni authorities investigate the explosion that seriously injured President Saleh and killed seven others, have said that it was definitely caused by a planted bomb.

At the site of the explosion in the presidential mosque, TNT has been found and other unexploded devices.

In the southern port of Mukalla, 40 suspected Al Quaeda prisoners attacked their guards yesterday and escaped from jail, aided by a simultaneous attack by armed gunmen from outside. One prisoner and a policeman were killed in the firefight.

TIMELINE – 22nd June 2011 07.27 GMT:

Reports coming form Yemen are increasingly confusing over the conflict between Government troops and militants supposedly allied to Al Quaeda in and around the southern town of Zinjibar.

While the provincial governor, Saleh Hussein al-Zuari, put out a statement  yesterday saying, “The army is besieging the remnants of the terrorists and is on the verge of completely cleansing Zinjibar,” other reports suggest the opposite.

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Some officials are suggesting privately that the army, in their attempts to retake the town have lost 100 dead and 260 wounded, and that the Government forces have now made a “tactical withdrawal”, leaving the air force and shelling to continue the assault.

There is also a report that President Saleh could return from Saudi Arabia as early as Friday.

However, his main opponent in the recent fighting, Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, has, according to an aide, written to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia saying that Saleh’s return will lead to “sedition and civil war.”

Meanwhike, Jeffrey D. Feltman, US Assistant Secretary of State, is on his way to Yemen for talks with Vice President Hadi and Opposition groups.

Away from fighting and politics, Aziz Athwari, who is the acting head of Oxfam in Yemen, said that ordinary people were being forgotten in the ongoing political story.

Before the protests started seven month ago, he continued, many of Yemen’s 7 million population did not start the day wth enough to eat and now the situation is far worse.

TIMELINE – 20th June 20111 08.52 GMT:

The 12 suspected Al Quaeda miltants killed by Government forces near Zinjibar at the weekend, were attacked while they were planting a roadside bomb, according to a Government spokesman.

2 army soldiers were also killed when insurgents attacked an army base in the same area.

In Sanaa yesterday, thousands marched to the residence of Vice President Hadi and once again demanded the formation of a “transitional council.”

TIMELINE – 19th June 2011 22.28 GMT:

Tens of thousands gathered in Sanaa on Friday for prayers and protests against the return of President Saleh. An Iman who spoke of peoples’ many difficulties told the Republican Guard “You are killing your own people.”

A Saudi spokesman has since denied that Saudi Arabia  would prevent President Saleh from leaving.  He went on to say that the President would return to his country in a short while but did not specify when.

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In Sanaa, a government spokesman said Saleh would return in a “few days”.

The Opposition are disallusioned with Vice-President Hadi who, following talks, seems to have little power other to keep things running.

A hundred clerics and tribal leaders are reported to have handed in a petition yesterday calling for Saleh to stand down and for elections within sixty days. The petition said that President Saleh “was unfit to resume his post”.

In the south where Government forces are fighting what are thought to be Al Quaeda fighters, military officials said they had killed 12  insurgents and wounded three while shelling Zinjibar.

Several days ago Government planes attacked the insurgents hideouts and the group have since issued a list of names and ranks of airforce and army officers whom they hold responsible for the atttacks and, whom they say, they intend to kill.

TIMELINE – 17th June 2011 UPDATED 13.30  GMT:

The AFP News Agency is reporting this morning that a top Saudi official has said that President Saleh, who is recovering from bomb blast wounds in the Saudi capital Riyadh, will not be “allowed” to return to Yemen.

The report remains unconfirmed by any official Saudi Government statement and while it seems odd that they can prevent the head of another sovereign state from returning home, it has been long known that the Saudis see Saleh as “the problem” and would encourage his departure given the opportunity.

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Large demonstrations are expected today after Friday prayers in Sanaa and Taiz and the unexpected news will give them added impetus.

The pro-democracy opposition have said that Saleh must stand down before serious political negotiations can begin but reversing previous comments they would not object to mediation by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Since the release of the AFP news report, Abdu al-Janadi, the deputy Information Minister in Yemen, has said that President Saleh will return to Yemen “within coming days”.  “The Preidents’s health is improving continuouly”.

So it is a question of wait and see.

TIMELINE – 16th June 2011 08.26 GMT:

Protesters, this time including many soldiers, demonstrated in Sanaa yesterday demanding the formation of an interim presidential council to take control of the country’s affairs and prevent the return of President Saleh.

Opposition groups are frustrated at slow progress on discussions with Vice – President Hadi on the formation of some form of transitional council.

The youth of Yemen, who have largely been the drivers of pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the country, feel even further marginalised and have not been included  in talks between the Opposition and the Vice- President.

Under the banner of the “Youth Organising Committee” they have requested separate discussions.

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Members of the ruling party have dismissed the possibility of any “deal” with the Opposition and have said that President Saleh, still recovering from  a bomb attack in hospital in Saudi Arabia, will speak “directly to the people of Yemen” in a few days.

Meanwhile, an offer of further mediation by the Gulf Cooperation Council has been rejected by the Opposition groups as they had failed after several attempts to get Saleh to sign a previous agreement to stand down.

In the south of the country, armed groups, possibly sponsored by Al Quaeda, now control Zjinbar and Jaar and in a dawn raid on Wednesday armed gunmen attacked Government buildings in Houta.

The unrest and subsequent weakening of central government has led to fuel shortages and frequent power outages, as well as concern by the US at the increasing strength of  the Al – Quaeda operatives.

To compensate for the power vacuum, the US has stepped up its armed drone attacks in the south of the country against militant groups  but this has led to many reports of injuries to civilians as well.

In Geneva yesterday, the US ambassador  to the UN Human Rights Council, Catherine Donahue, added Yemen to  a list of 14 countries it believes guilty of human rights abuses particularly towards protesters.  The list includes China, North Korea, Burma, Bahrain and Iran among others.

"Too many governments repress dissent with impunity, ” she said in her address to the Council and expressed concern about the growing number of activists, bloggers, lawyers and others detained for expressing their beliefs in China and elsewhere.

TIMELINE – 14th June 2011 21.51 GMT:

A Yemeni official in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, reported today that President Saleh, recovering from a bomb attack a week ago, has developed a throat problem, though overall his “condition is stable”.

At the same time, another bomb blast took place in Yemen today and killed one of Saleh’s senior military officers.

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Protests against the return of Saleh continue and a large group of women marched in the southern city of Taiz.

Meanwhile, the US is concerned that Al-Quaeda, supported by Somalia’s Al-Shabab, will take advantage of the power vacuum in Yemen and try to gain ground.

The US has pledged to step up its armed drone activity and destroy insurgents where it can.

TIMELINE – 13th June 2011 08.43 GMT:

Opposition groups have confirmed that they have been invited to have preliminary talks with the Vice-President, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, this morning.

TIMELINE – 12th June 2011 22.15 GMT:

Reports say that more than 50 people have been questioned over the bomb attack on President Saleh that hospitalised him in Saudi Arabia and five of them have been arrested.

Meanwhile, protests continue in Sanna against his return.  His nephew however, General Yahia Saleh,  Chief of Staff for central security, said, “Of course he will be back after he recovers. There are official preparations to receive him”.

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A Yemeni army colonel and 2 soldiers were killed yesterday in continuing clashes between Government forces and suspected Al Quaeda militants around the southern city of Zinjibar.  The army claimed to have killed 21 militants.

Timeline – 10th June 2011 21,53 GMT:

More than 100,000 protesters gathered today in “Change Square”  in Sanaa to re-state their demand for a “transitional council” and to protest at any possibility of President Saleh returning.

Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashid tribe, whose  fighters battled with the Government across Sanaa in recent weeks, led a funeral procession of 10,000 across the square in honour of 41 of his men killed last week.

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Five kilometres from “Change Square”, outside the presidential  palace, several thousand Saleh supporters also came together to demonstrate their loyalty to the President who is currently awaiting plastic surgery in Saudi Arabia.

Thousands of anti- government supporters also demonstrated in Taiz to the south.

Many commentators hope that the Saudis can “persuade” President Saleh from returning to Yemen in order to prevent what will almost be another outbreak of civil war.


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