Fighting flared in Yemen’s capital city yesterday as powerful militia forces fought against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime. At least 28 people were killed and the four-day death toll reached 110.According to the Associated Press, the powerful militia alliance told president Ali Abdullah Saleh that he needs to step down or face a full scale civil war. The brash declaration indicates the militia’s growing confidence that they could be gaining the upper hand.
And though Saleh has shown his unwillingness to go anywhere, this time may be different. Yemen’s main tribes, each commanding well-trained and well-armed militias have joined forces and each will tap their own loyal clan members to bring an end to Saleh’s rule.
Under ancient tribal code, Yemen’s clan leaders can demand members follow their orders above all others. This gives tribal chiefs the power to order government troops from their clans to stand down.
Some of Saleh’s key commanders have jumped to the opposition and though there’s been no mass defection, the leader of Yemen’s largest tribe, Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, warned that Saleh needed to step down or be held accountable for “dragging the country to a civil war.”
This week’s battles began when Saleh’s troops attacked Amar’s compound, and by yesterday the clashes had spread to include areas around Sana’s airport.
The overall death toll since February is now about 150.