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SANA’A – Armed groups in the jihadi-laden governorate of Abyan in south Yemen have taken over the local radio station, Presidential palace and an ammunition factory while the area is still witnessing violent clashes between the republican guards and armed rebels.

News reports conveyed only one casualty but the clashes are ongoing and the citizens are still hearing the gun shots until the time of writing this report.

Locals with support from the attacking rebels -- some of whom are jihadis-- have formed popular committees to control the area.

Moreover, on Saturday the government announced that it killed three Al-Qa’ida members from the governorate but the locals rejected this claim and said that the men killed were locals and not aligned with Al-Qa’ida. They vowed to take revenge, hence the clashes today.

Meanwhile, the central government in a move to appease the secessionist movement in the south, has ordered the release of a number of leading figures in the movement who were arrested because of their campaign against the beleaguered Yemeni president.

The state’s position has been significantly weakened after Gen. Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, chief of the western army division who controls almost half of Yemen’s army, defected last week and joined the opposition movement that aims to oust President Saleh from his reign of 32 years.

“The general was the president’s man to clamp down on any rebellion. He was also used to fight the Houthis in the north but now because of his changing sides, the balance of power has tipped in favor of rebellion,” said Yemeni activist and political analyst Mansour Rajeh.

Rajeh added that after foreign minister of the dissolved government Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi returned from a mission to Saudi Arabia, Saleh’s speech became more arrogant and defiant, which indicates Saudi support for his regime.

Meanwhile, Taiz city airport authority has announced joining the change revolution, becoming the second airbase after Hodida on the Red Sea to break-off from the central government.

In the latest Wikileaks revelation on Yemen as reported by the Reuters news agency on Sunday, in 2005 former US ambassador to Yemen Thomas Krajeski “painted a picture in diplomatic cables of a brutal military commander likely to back a more radical Islamic political agenda and draw little public support.”

The Houthi Shiite rebellion in the north has completely taken over Sa’ada governorate while Fares Manna, an alleged arms dealer and an influential figure in the area, announced himself as governor without needing the approval from the president.

The former governorate of Sa’ada left a few days ago aboard a chartered plane after emptying the central bank – literally carrying the money with him in sacks to Sana’a.

The other controversial governorate, Mareb -- which is known for its armed tribal men and kidnapping of foreigners -- has also witnessed armed clashes with unknown gunmen at a security check point as recently as March 26. At least 14 security men were killed or injured in that attack.

While some of the tribal men of Mareb are very much part of the movement for change in “Change Square” in Sana’a, there is a question regarding the united position of Yemeni tribes.

Saleh has promised that even if -- or when -- he releases power he is not going to give up his position as president of the General People’s Congress party and will play the same games the opposition parties are doing today.

“I am telling all those defecting soldiers that I will forgive them if they come back to the truthful side now before it is too late. And we will investigate the cases of the resigning government officials and deal with them soon,” Saleh said in a Sunday news conference while inaugurating the fourth GPC conference.

He warned that if the opposition continues such resistance, not agreeing to dialogue, Yemen is likely to fall into the hands of terrorists and rebellion, a situation not unlike the present one.

Ironically, this human-orchestrated turmoil is coinciding with Mother Nature’s wrath as a dust storm swept through from the northern desert. It has temporarily paralyzed avian movement and the airports are shut down until the skies clear.

“Nothing good comes from Saudi Arabia,” joked Mohammed Yousif a Yemeni citizen in Sana’a.

The spokesperson of the opposition coalition of the Joint Meeting Parties was replaced on Friday after his declaration that the protestors will march to the presidential palace to overthrow the regime. Tensed anticipation dominated Yemen and the world, but nothing happened except that millions of Yemenis peacefully demonstrated in the streets reflecting their affiliation for or against Saleh.

Although Saleh has on more than one occasion accused “foreign hands” of interfering with Yemeni affairs, he has very much had the back up of the US government and the Saudis.

“There is the fear that the American government and any foreign government did not know what the alternative to Saleh was,” said Carnegie expert on Yemen Christopher Boucek. “I think they were afraid of the alternative and viewed President Saleh and his government as what was standing between Yemen and state failure or state collapse.”

http://www.yementimes.com/defaultdet.aspx?SUB_ID=35843
 
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