Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Yemeni tribesmen seize 10 militants in south

Source: Reuters, 17/08/2011

Yemeni tribesman working with the army of President Ali Abdullah Saleh arrested 10 suspected Islamist militants in southern Yemen late on Tuesday, where the government has lost control of some areas after months of political turmoil.

The men were stopped at a checkpoint near the town of Shoqra in the possession of machine guns and grenades heading toward the southern port city of Aden on the main coastal road. The men were handed over to the army, which transferred them to Aden by the safer sea route, local and tribal sources said.

Islamists, some possibly from al Qaeda, have taken over coastal areas and towns such as Jaar and Zinjibar in recent months, apparently exploiting a security vacuum as Saleh and his allies fight to stay in power in the face of pro-democracy protests that began in January.

Saleh, in power since 1978, said on Tuesday he would soon return home from Saudi Arabia where he is recovering from a June assassination attempt that badly burned him and raised questions about whether he could return to rule.

In his second televised appearance from Riyadh, Saleh looked to be in markedly better health, attacking opposition parties as opportunists who had hijacked the youth protests and instigated violence.

He ended the live speech to a gathering of several thousand tribal supporters in Sanaa with a vow to return to Yemen very soon.

His return would anger demonstrators who had hoped his sojourn in Riyadh would become permanent and also dismay the United States, which has urged its former ally to stay away.

Popular protests against Saleh snowballed after uprisings ousted veteran presidents in Tunisia and Egypt this year, but the Yemeni leader has clung on, defying international pressure and three times backing out of a Gulf-brokered transition deal.

Protesters and opposition parties suspect Saleh has deliberately loosened security to allow militants space to operate, in an attempt to illustrate the dangers of Yemen without him.

His key allies in Riyadh and Washington fear that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will establish a firmer footing in Yemen if Saleh is forced out, enabling them to launch more operations broad. They have backed Saleh for years as the man who can keep a lid on Yemen al Qaeda activities.

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