Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—There are ongoing armed clashes between security forces and armed groups seeking to control the city of Rada’, in the Al-Bayda’ governorate of Yemen. There have also been renewed violent confrontations in Sarwah, in the Ma’rib governorate. Meanwhile, saboteurs have stepped up their attacks on electricity transmission lines over the past 24 hours, plunging much of the country into darkness.
Eyewitnesses in Rada’ told Asharq Al-Awsat that armed clashes continued for a second consecutive day in Rada’, central Yemen, between army troops and gunmen believed to be affiliated to Al-Qaeda, seeking to take control of a city that contains important historical sites. The witnesses said that the clashes took place on the streets, with machine guns and other heavy and medium weaponry being used, before the army withdrew and the gunmen took control of the streets and closed them off completely. Initial reports gave a death toll of seven, while dozens were reportedly wounded. Sources expect these figures to rise due to the ferocity of the clashes.
In Sarwah, there were renewed confrontations between tribesmen and the Yemeni army. Eyewitnesses confirmed that there was armed violence at the local market, during which the army set fire to two cars. There was no new information about the number of victims, after three died and several were wounded during the first day of confrontations that erupted over the deaths of a number of tribesmen at the hands of members of a military outpost a few days ago.
In addition to these confrontations, Sarwah is witnessing a tense security situation, with so-called saboteurs targeting electricity pylons for the fourth time in 24 hours. This has led to Ma’rib gas plant ceasing its operations. As a result, the capital, Sana’a, and most Yemeni cities have been in darkness for several days.
The tribesmen involved in these acts are demanding funds from the Yemeni government, which they refer to as “compensation,” while fingers are also being pointed at remnants of the former regime. These acts of sabotage have put the Yemeni national reconciliation government in an embarrassing position, especially in view of the situation on the Yemeni street.
The Yemeni ministry of communication and information technology has reported that 90% of international communication links and Internet services have been disrupted because of sabotage attacks in the provinces of Ma’rib, Shabwa and Abyan.
President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi yesterday met with ambassadors from the ten states sponsoring the Gulf Initiative in the presence of the Qatari minister of state for foreign affairs, Khalid Al-Attiyah, who is visiting Yemen. Yemeni government sources reported that Hadi briefed the ambassadors on “new developments on the security, economic and political levels, along with the progress of implementing a political settlement in accordance with the terms of the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism.”
During the meeting, the Yemeni president pointed out that “the comprehensive National Dialogue, which began on March 18, has been an important strategic stop on the road to Yemen emerging from its crisis. Its outputs will be represented in a new system of rule based on good governance, with all its modern requirements, and a new starting point for the desired future of Yemen, one of freedom, justice, equality, and law and order.”
Hadi stressed, “Whatever the difficulties, the dialogue—and the dialogue alone—is the natural and proper way to spare Yemen from war, infighting and divisions.” He said, “We are counting on the five permanent members [of the UN Security Council] and the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council to complete their required role so that the transitional phase can succeed and take us to February 2014 [when Yemeni presidential elections will be held].”
Hadi also alluded to important decisions that will be announced soon, which were supposed to have been issued in 2012. It was a reference to the delayed restructuring of the armed forces, where decisions are still left to be made on the designation of military zones and their leaders. These decisions will determine the future of the Yemeni armed forces, which are suffering divisions due to the fact that the former president’s son, Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, still controls a large part of them. Another part of the army is controlled by Major General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, who was Saleh’s chief military adviser before turning his back on the former president during the 2011 uprisings.