Thursday, May 26, 2011

Yemen clashes death toll approaches 70

Anti-regime protesters shout slogans demanding the ouster of President Saleh during a demonstrationin Sana'a on May 25, 2011.

Source: Press TV

Nearly 70 people have been killed over the past three days as clashes between Yemeni security forces and tribesmen intensify in Sana'a.

Both sides raised the specter of a civil war as the death toll rose over the course of three days of battles in the capital, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Wednesday that he is prepared to escalate the campaign against anti-regime tribesmen, who are calling for his immediate ouster.

He said he would work to prevent the recent violence from “dragging the country into a civil war,” while the opposition are demonstrating against any attempt by the regime to pull the country into a civil war.

In a statement read out by Saleh's spokesman, Ahmed al-Soufi, the president said, “I will not leave power and I will not leave Yemen. I don't take orders from outside.”

He also criticized the US-backed efforts to negotiate his exit after almost 33 years of authoritarian rule.

Reports say that tribal fighters have occupied 16 ministries and other government institutions, while Saleh's forces are using the Interior Ministry as their front-line base.

Some military units also defected to the opposition on Wednesday. One breakaway unit trucked in stones to block streets in order to prevent government troops from moving in heavy weapons.

An aviation official said that clashes near Sana'a airport have diverted flights.

The violence escalated on Monday after Saleh refused to sign a power transition deal brokered by the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to the fighting and expressed concern that the clashes “might further destabilize the situation,” his spokesman Martin Nesirky said at UN headquarters in New York.

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