Last updated: 24 October, 2011

Saleh partisans and foes clash in Yemeni capital

Seven people were killed in violence across Yemen on Monday as President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he welcomed the UN resolution urging him to quit but failed to say if he will comply and resign.

Regime loyalists opened fire randomly on civilians in Yemen’s second-largest city Taez killing a child and wounding another, medics and witnesses said.

“A seven-year-old boy was killed by live rounds while a five-year-old was wounded,” a medical official told AFP.

Witnesses confirmed saying that armed supporters of Saleh were randomly shooting on the streets of Taez as his troops shelled neighbourhoods in the city’s north, allegedly targetting armed dissidents.

An armed man from tribes backing the protest in Taez was killed in dawn clashes with Saleh’s forces, a tribal source said.

In the capital Sanaa, tribes backing the nine-month protest movement against Saleh clashed with his loyalists on Monday, witnesses said, after weekend gunfights left more than 20 dead.

The firefight in north Sanaa began after midnight and continued into the morning in Al-Hassaba neighbourhood, the base of tribesmen led by Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, a fierce foe of Saleh, residents said.

A source close to Ahmar told AFP that two of his tribesmen were killed overnight in a bombing carried out by the president’s forces, while 13 others were wounded.

Twenty people were killed on Saturday in clashes between between Saleh’s loyalists and dissident troops led by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and tribesmen led by Sheikh Sadeq in northern Sanaa.

A seven-years-old girl was also killed and her mother was wounded when a rocket hit their house in the Saawan neighbourhood in northeast Sanaa, which is relatively calm, witnesses said.

The clashes erupted in the wake of a non-binding UN Security Council resolution urging Saleh to immediately sign a Gulf-brokered deal to step down.

Saleh on Monday welcomed the UN resolution urging him to quit without saying whether or not he will comply, state news agency Saba reported. The veteran leader also renewed his calls for dialogue with the opposition.

The resolution, unanimously agreed by the council’s 15 members on Friday, strongly condemned deadly government attacks on demonstrators and backed a Gulf-brokered plan under which Saleh would end his 33 years in power.

Saleh has repeatedly stalled the Gulf initiative, aimed at ending months of protests, under which he will step down 30 days after it is signed in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Women protesters marched Monday from Sanaa’s Change Square, the epicentre of anti-Saleh protests, calling for bringing Saleh to justice, witnesses said.

Armed confrontations between rival forces and militias have escalated in past weeks, raising fears that Saleh’s continued refusal to resign will push impoverished Yemen to all-out civil war.

The latest death toll also included two soldiers killed in south Yemen and four wounded when unidentified gunmen opened fire overnight at a military installation in Al-Muala, in the province of Aden, a wounded soldier told AFP.

South Yemen was independent from the 1967 British withdrawal from Aden until the region united with the north in 1990. The south seceded in 1994, sparking a short-lived civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.

The regions of former South Yemen had seen a large wave of attacks against government forces as southern separatists demanded secession from the north.

But those demands appear to have been put on the back burner since protests broke out in most of Yemen in January demanding the ouster of Saleh.

Al-Qaeda’s local branch is also active in the lawless southern and eastern regions of Yemen, and is believed to be taking advantage of the weakening of central authority.