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Yemeni Opposition Forms 2nd National Council

Yemen's mainstream opposition coalition has announced a new alliance that it says will unite all forces seeking to oust longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh and end months of violence. It is the second such group formed in days.

An opposition spokesman Tuesday said the new "National Council for the Forces of the Revolution" will unify the demands of Yemen's often scattered anti-government forces to produce a stronger front.

Mohammed al-Sabri said the alliance includes opposition parties, defected military units, media and some of the youth protesters who have camped out in Yemen's public squares to demand that Mr. Saleh cede power.

Youth groups and activists just days ago formed their own 17-member "transitional council" in a similar bid to force out Mr. Saleh.

The creation of two interim councils could further splinter Yemen's opposition in the fractious Arab Gulf country where Mr. Saleh - who survived a bomb attack in June - is clinging to 33 years in power. The Yemeni leader has refused to step down despite being severely wounded in last month's blast at his presidential compound. He has been receiving treatment in a Saudi hospital since the attack.

In Washington, two senior U.S. officials said they continue to support a plan developed by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council that would have Mr. Saleh hand power to a transitional government. He has stopped short of signing the agreement three times in the past few months.

Also Tuesday, residents in southern Yemen said government forces and tribal allies have killed at least 20 Islamist militants in two days of battles to retake control of troubled Abyan province.

Yemeni soldiers and local tribesmen inflicted heavy losses on the militants in areas of Abyan they had seized in recent months. There was no independent confirmation of the incidents and it is not clear how many casualties the army and tribesmen have suffered in the fighting.

In recent months, the militants have captured the provincial capital of Zinjibar and the town of Jaar as the government struggles to contain a nationwide uprising against Yemen's embattled president.

Residents say Abyan tribesmen turned against the Islamists in the last week, setting up roadblocks to protect tribal communities and cut off the militants' supplies. The tribes also joined forces with Yemeni troops. Yemen's government says the Islamists are linked to al-Qaida.

The country's opposition movement has accused Mr. Saleh of abandoning Abyan to the militants as a ploy to show that his leadership is needed to prevent Yemen from being overrun by al-Qaida terrorists.

Some information for this report provided by AP.