Thursday, 26 May 2011

Yemen: US withdraws diplomats as fighting gets worse

It is estimated that more than 70 people have died during three days of violent clashes between Yemen's Hashid tribe fighters and security troops. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has once again refused to resign despite increasingly violent protests.

The clashes began in Sana'a's northern region, near the home of tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ahmar. Former supporter of Saleh, Sheikh Ahmar joined protests against his rule in March. The fighting, which reportedly lasted over six hours, also involved machine-guns, grenades and tanks.

In view of the speedily deteriorating situation in the country, the US has ordered all its embassy staff to leave Yemen immediately. The US State Department released a stamen, saying: "The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. There is on-going civil unrest throughout the country and large-scale protests in major cities… US citizens currently in Yemen should depart while commercial transportation is available."

The situation in Yemen seems to be escalating; many fear the prospect of a civil war. Saleh, however, remains defiant refusing to step down. Discussions about the on-going crisis in the country and arrangements for Saleh's departure broke down on Wednesday 18th May, when the president once again refused to sign the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) mediated deal which would have allowed him to leave office in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

On Wednesday 25th May, US President Barack Obama said Saleh should "move immediately on his commitment to transfer power". UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon added that he was "deeply troubled" by the violence and called on all sides to find a peaceful solution.

Sources: BBC News, The Guardian, CNN

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

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