Middle East News
Yemeni security forces close off capital amid clashes
May 25, 2011, 14:54 GMT
A Yemeni medic treats a wounded tribesman following clashes with security forces in Sana\'a, Yemen, 25 May 2011. Violent clashes between armed tribesmen and Yemeni security forces continued on 25 May in Sana\'a, with mediation efforts abandoned and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh refusing to step down. Saleh said he would not bow to any foreign pressure and that he would only sign a power-transfer agreement \'in the context of dialogue\'. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
Sana'a/Cairo - Yemeni military forces closed off entry points to the capital city, Sana'a, on Wednesday as clashes between security forces and armed tribesmen continued for a third day.
The soldiers, including units from the presidential guard, say they are attempting to prevent armed tribesmen from entering the city.
Residents fled areas near tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar's house as the fighting intensified and heavy gunfire was heard. Clashes began outside al-Ahmar's home on Monday as security forces and tribesmen loyal to al-Ahmar fought.
Al-Ahmar is the leader of the Hashid tribe, to which President Ali Abdullah Saleh belongs, and has supported the widespread protests demanding that Saleh step down after 32 years as president.
At least five civilians were killed by a rocket fired by the army on Tuesday night, witnesses told the German Press Agency dpa.
Tribesmen have taken over several government buildings in the capital, including the offices of the official state news agency Saba.
Some Saba staff relocated to a different building and are continuing to operate the agency's Arabic language website.
A number of ministries have stopped functioning as the city is gripped by tension.
The clashes began on Monday, a day after Saleh refused to sign a Gulf-brokered power transition plan for a third time.
Saleh said he would not bow to any foreign pressure and that he would only sign a power-transfer agreement 'in the context of dialogue,' in comments aired on Yemeni state television.
He also accused the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdel Latif al-Zayani, of not speaking to him 'with the correct tone' required when addressing a head of state.
Meanwhile, a GCC official told regional network Al Arabiya that the bloc was still in communication with Yemen and that it was willing to continue its efforts to resolve the crisis in the country.
In a press conference in London, US president Barack Obama called on Saleh to step down immediately.
For months, protesters throughout Yemen have called on Saleh to resign. Security forces have violently cracked down on the demonstrations several times, killing at least 140 people.