Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yemen Qaida hub bleeds

A tribesman guards a street near tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar’s house in Sanaa on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Sanaa, June 7 (Reuters): At least 45 people were killed in an al Qaida-held town in the latest violence in Yemen and protesters took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday to demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh stay in exile.

The army said it had killed 30 Islamist militants, including a local al Qaida leader, in the southern town of Zinjibar. A local official said 15 soldiers had been killed in the battles for control of the town seized by militants about 10 days ago.

The fighting was another symptom of instability in Yemen, whose leader left for Saudi Arabia at the weekend for surgery on wounds suffered in an attack on his palace in Sanaa.

Demonstrators, who have been trying to topple Saleh for months, called a “million-man march” in Sanaa to pile pressure on him to stay away and hand over power permanently.

The volatile situation in Yemen, which lies on vital oil shipping lanes, alarms western powers and neighbouring oil giant Saudi Arabia, who fear that chaos would enable the local al Qaida franchise to operate more freely there.
They see Saleh’s absence as a chance to ease him out of office after nearly 33 years of rule.

“We are calling for a peaceful and orderly transition,” US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said on Monday.

Yemen’s acting leader, Vice President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, said Saleh would return within days.

Saudi officials say it is up to Saleh whether he returns home or not but they and their western allies may want to revive a Gulf-brokered transition deal under which the Yemeni leader would quit in return for immunity from prosecution.

“Saleh’s departure is probably permanent,” said Robert Powell, Yemen analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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