SANAA (Reuters) – Fighting broke out in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Tuesday between government forces and tribesmen loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh trying to storm the Interior Ministry to demand jobs, a ministry source said.
It was the second attempt to seize the building in three days.
Dozens of tribesmen exchanged gunfire with security forces preventing them from entering the ministry, the source said. Fighting was still going on but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
On Sunday, around 100 tribesmen occupied the Interior Ministry building, demanding to be enlisted in the police force. They agreed to vacate it on Monday after officials promised to heed their demands.
The showdown highlighted the turmoil in Yemen in the five months since Saleh stepped down in a deal that ended months of protests against his 33-year rule and replaced him with his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
It is also a direct challenge to Hadi’s authority, who is trying to restructure the armed forces and stabilize the impoverished country, where Saleh’s legacy still looms large.
Separately, a Yemeni official said on Tuesday the governor of the oil-producing province of Maarib was mediating with the kidnappers of an Italian Embassy security officer for his release.
The Interior Ministry said earlier the Italian officer was seized by tribesmen on Sunday and was being held in Maarib.
Tribal traditions are strong in Yemen, at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, where tribal chiefs who control thousands fighters often pledge loyalty to one political leader or another.
Tribesmen have fought alongside government troops in a U.S.-backed offensive against al Qaeda-linked militants that drove insurgents out of several towns in the south of the country last month. Many tribal fighters also sided with Saleh who was toppled by a popular uprising.
Disgruntled tribesmen often bomb oil and gas pipelines and kidnap foreigners as a way to press demands on authorities. The kidnapees usually are freed unharmed.