The past week has seen the situation in Yemen deteriorate rapidly. The government and opposition paramilitaries are turning to increasingly violent means in their dealings with one another at the same time as the government continues to target unarmed protestors. The upsurge in violence was precipitated by the return of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Yemen on September 23rd from Saudi Arabia where he was seeking treatment for his injuries following a failed assassination attempt in June. With President Saleh’s return, crackdowns on protestors have become increasingly brutal.
The toll on civilians from the upsurge in violence was made apparent with reports that atleast 150 people had been killed in the past week, a number that included the deaths of tribesmen and defected soldiers. Civilian deaths have increased as President Saleh’s regime uses mortar bombs, snipers, and anti-aircraft guns to quell protests in city streets. Most recently government forces launched an attack before dawn on “Change Square”, an area of the city where protestors have camped out as they demand the end of President Saleh’s regime, using mortars, rooftop snipers, and heavy guns.
On Sunday, Yemeni tribesmen opposed to President Saleh’s government took control of the military base of the elite Republican Guards in Dahrah. The tribesmen took 30 soldiers hostage. There have been no reports as to the number of causalities among Republican Guards at the base, but it has been reported that four of the tribesmen were killed and another 27 were wounded. The defeat of the elite Republican Guards and loss of the base at Dahrah was another blow to Saleh’s government, which had already lost a military base in Sana’a to defected General Ali Mohsen and his men, which they invaded on September 19th.
In a statement released yesterday, General Ali Mohsen warned Saleh’s government that unless they quit their actions against civilians Yemen would be headed toward a violent civil war. General Mohsen is currently in control of several areas of the Yemeni capitol of Sana’a but forces loyal to President Saleh continue to shell his positions, killing nearly a dozen of Mohsen’s men and in one earlier instance killing two civilians.
A member of President Saleh’s own party, Mohammed Abu Lahoum, showed support for Ali Mohsen, saying, “I strongly believe Ali Mohsen has put himself in the right side of history where he has taken the side of the people to see a safe transfer of power…Betting against the people, you will always lose”. But whether the people will be protected from violence as the process of transferring power evolves remains to be seen.
Continue to follow the developments in Yemen, here at the United to End Genocide blog. As before, Yemen remains on UEG’s Watch List.