Tuesday 26 September 2017

Deadly Yemen attack as leader returns

AHMED AL-HAJ in Sanaa

Forces loyal to Yemen's newly returned president attacked pro-opposition troops with mortar shells and heavy gunfire yesterday and used rooftop snipers to pick off unarmed protesters fleeing in panic, killing more than 40 people and littering the streets of the capital with bodies.

One of the most powerful rivals to President Ali Abdullah Saleh -- a senior general who threw his support and his troops behind the anti-regime uprising -- warned that the president appears set on driving the country into civil war, calling on the international community to rein him in.

Mr Saleh, who has clung to power despite nearly eight months of protests and an assassination attempt that left him severely burned, abruptly returned to Yemen on Friday last after more than three months of treatment in Saudi Arabia for his wounds. Street battles that had reignited a week earlier in Sanaa rapidly escalated, signaling a possible full-fledged attempt to crush his rivals and tighten his grip on the country he has ruled for 33 years.

In a strongly worded statement, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who commands the 1st Armoured Division, called Mr Saleh a "sick, vengeful soul" and compared him to the Roman emperor Nero, burning down his own city.

"With his return, Yemen is experiencing sweeping chaos, and the harbingers of a crushing civil war which this ignorant is determined to ignite," Gen. al-Ahmar said.

He called on the neighbouring Gulf countries, the US, and the international community to "deter him, stop his irresponsible behaviour that aims to ignite a civil war that would have repercussions on the whole region."

Yemen's turmoil is of deep concern to the US and much of the West because the country is a haven for Islamic militants, including a branch of al-Qa'ida that Washington says is the most dangerous remnant of the terror network. Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula has launched several nearly successful attacks on the US, including the failed plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in December 2009 with explosives sewn into the underwear of a would-be suicide bomber.

Sunday Independent

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