Explosions and gunfire shake Yemen truce

Sporadic violence continues after President Ali Abdullah Saleh agrees halt to fighting with breakaway general.

Sporadic explosions and gunfire have been heard in the Yemeni capital Sanaa hours after the government announced a ceasefire with a breakaway general and armed opposition tribes.

On Tuesday evening, residents of the Hasaba and Sofan neighbourhoods reported that they could still hear fighting nearby after the 3pm ceasefire deadline earlier announced by state television.

Tribal sources told the AFP news agency that at least one man was killed and nine people were wounded when shelling struck Hasaba. Fighting also continued in Taiz, Yemen’s second-largest city, where 15 people were killed, the AFP reported.

According to the earlier government announcement, embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh had reached a ceasefire agreement with dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. The two sides’ forces have been engaged in bloody battles for weeks, and the violence escalated in recent days.

After the fighting seemed to continue on Tuesday, state television said that the truce was “stabilising” and that a mediation committee set up to negotiate the ceasefire was still “making contact with all parties”.

Saleh, who has ruled for 33 years, also summoned the ambassador from the United States to say that he is prepared to sign a deal that will see him step down, a promise he has made several times before.

Tribal chief signed ceasefire

Tribal forces led by the powerful Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, who backs the general and who has thrown his support behind the pro-democracy movement that has rocked Yemen, also agreed to the ceasefire, sources in Ahmar’s office said on Tuesday.

The truce, state media said in its statement, had the “goal of … bringing calm … and ensuring the safety of the capital, its people and their properties”.

Video posted to YouTube showed clashes continuing in Sanaa on Tuesday.

The statement added that the government and rival forces would remove checkpoints and barricades set up throughout the capital as deadly clashes and battles intensified between the feuding parties.

Yemeni troops loyal to Saleh have fired on crowds of protesters calling for his removal multiple times in the past week, killing at least 20 people, medics have said.

Another demonstration formed in the early morning hours in the capital Sanaa, with protesters marching through the streets surrounding Change Square, the epicentre of the nationwide movement calling for Saleh’s resignation.

The protesters were marching towards the al-Qaa district, an area controlled by pro-Saleh troops, when they were fired upon with live ammunition, witnesses told the AFP news agency.

Three of the dead reportedly reached a field hospital run by the revolutionary doctors, while three other bodies were taken to the state-run al-Jumhuri hospital in the capital, sources told Al Jazeera.

‘Listen to your people’

“The people want to prosecute the butcher,” the Associated Press news agency quoted the protesters as chanting. They were demanding a trial for Saleh.

Some also held up posters saying that after the death of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, it was time for Saleh to “listen to your people”.

Amid the shooting, the marchers were forced to retreat from the surrounding streets towards Change Square, AP said.

Saleh’s forces in Sanaa have exchanged gunfire with army units who defected to the opposition early on in the uprising and whose forces now escort and protect the protesters.

Mohammed al-Qubati, who runs a field hospital at the protesters’ camp site, said at least 40 people were wounded by Saleh’s forces during Tuesday’s shooting.

He said dozens also suffered breathing difficulties because of tear gas fired by the troops and several passed out.

Violence in Sanaa has escalated in the wake of a non-binding UN Security Council resolution urging Saleh to sign a Gulf states-brokered deal that paves the way for his resignation.

Saleh welcomed the resolution on Monday, but has so far refused to sign the agreement, despite increased regional and international pressure to do so.

Meanwhile, in Yemen’s second largest city Taiz, seven civilians died and at least 30 others were wounded in shelling and in clashes between armed tribesmen who back the anti-government protesters and pro-Saleh troops, medics and sources told Al Jazeera.

Witnesses there described scenes of fear and chaos as mortar shells fell randomly on city neighbourhoods overnight and early on Tuesday, damaging dozens of houses and forcing schools to shut down.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

More from News
Most Read