News / Middle East

Yemen Troops Fight Tribal Forces, New Turn in Revolt

A Yemeni doctor checks on a tribesman loyal to Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, the head of the powerful Hashid tribe, who was injured Tuesday in clashes with Yemeni security forces, in a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, May 25, 2011
A Yemeni doctor checks on a tribesman loyal to Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, the head of the powerful Hashid tribe, who was injured Tuesday in clashes with Yemeni security forces, in a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, May 25, 2011
Elizabeth Arrott

Heavy fighting in Yemen's capital between government troops and forces loyal to a powerful tribal chief mark an escalating shift in the unrest roiling the country for nearly four months.

Plumes of smoke rose from the street battles in Sanaa, as President Ali Abdallah Saleh's troops fought members of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar's Hashid tribe for a third day.

Dozens of people have been killed in the fighting that followed Saleh's rejection Sunday of a deal to step down.

The block-by-block clashes bring a new element to the unrest: The president Wednesday blamed Hashid tribesmen of provocative acts that are dragging Yemen into a civil war.

Speaking to reporters in Sana'a, Saleh said troops loyal to al-Ahmar, whose tribe is among the country's most influential, are trying to occupy key government ministries.

Witnesses in the capital report some offices already were under Hashid control. The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which brokered the transition deal, appealed to all sides for calm.

Abdullatif Al Zayani late Tuesday urged a peaceful solution to the impasse, as well as an immediate end to the fighting. The GCC has suspended mediation, but al-Zayani expressed hope it could be revived, adding the Gulf initiative is the only peaceful solution now available.

Saleh's rejection Sunday was the third time he backed out of a pact aimed at ensuring a transition to a more democratic state.

In London on Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama, in a news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, urged Saleh "to move immediately on his commitment to transfer power."

There are indications more tribes may be willing to join the Hashids in siding with Yemen's anti-government movement, one inspired by the popular political uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

And in the view of Yemeni political analyst Hakim al Masmari, the increase of the tribal element may be something Saleh might not mind.

"Showing people that Yemen will enter a crisis the more tribes are entering the capital, the more of a chance that Saleh remains in power to show the world that the crisis will continue and a civil war will happen and that, if he goes, Yemen will not be safe," said Masmari.

Pointing to the threat of tribal unrest is the latest of warnings from Saleh, as protests to his 30-year rule have increased. He has said that without his leadership, al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the local terror offshoot, could gain ground - an alarming prospect for Yemen's ally, the United States.

And he has suggested that Shi'ite Iran could press its cause in the country - a major concern to the Sunni leaders of Saudi Arabia, another key backer.

Political analyst Masmari also is worried that the recent clashes are already adding to Yemen's instability.

"President Saleh's forces attacked the Ahmar family, so what we see now is that family is defending themselves more than attacking, however, they have gone over the limits," he said. "They are defending themselves, but also occupying government offices and headquarters."

It's just such fighting that prompted the U.S. embassy to close its doors until at least Thursday. Masmari said the dire situation might push the protesters, and foreign nations, to more action.

"The protesters' options are, number one: They are weighing the option of marching to the president palace to force him out of power," said Masmari. "And number two, they are counting on the international community to put more pressure on Saleh to leave power seriously, without the bloodshed of the Yemeni people."

Masmari argues that international mediators could apply much more direct pressure on the president - the questions is, do they want to.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs