Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Yemen’s Embattled Government Calls Cease-Fire That So Far Fails to End Violence

The northern part of the capital city has turned into a virtual war zone in recent days, and even as the government announced a cease-fire on Tuesday, explosions boomed across the city.

The failure to end the bloodshed was another sign that fighting has intensified between the nation’s elites, a dynamic that began to unfold when antigovernment protests began months ago, inadvertently aggravating longstanding rivalries between heavily armed groups. The largely peaceful protesters still camped out in the streets, calling for democracy, remain a vulnerable backdrop to an armed conflict that has defied resolution.

On Tuesday, at least two more protesters were killed.

“We will fight them until they return to the right path,” said Sheik Sagheer bin Aziz, a tribal leader from northern Yemen who is an ally of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and has taken up the fight against the opposition.

Sheik Aziz’s house is perched on a hill that overlooks the worst of war-torn Sana, and it has clearly become a target for opposition forces in the expanding urban combat. Chunks are missing from the walls from mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades. The windows are filled in with bricks, and all the neighbors have fled to safety.

Only armed tribesmen backed by security forces patrol the nearby streets. This is how Yemen’s protracted standoff has evolved, into a range of proxy battles. In mid-September, Sheik Aziz agreed to fight on behalf of Mr. Saleh against the Ahmars, a rival clan of tribal leaders who are supported by their own armed tribesmen, and a defected military commander, Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, who is not related.

“They are calling for civil state, but they are doing just the opposite,” Sheik Aziz said of the opposition. “Their actions are different from what they are saying. You can see they have weapons like mortars and heavy artillery everywhere. This speaks for their goals.” more