Fierce clashes in Sanaa have pitted Saleh’s forces against tribal fighters commanded by the Ahmar family, one of the most powerful in Yemen. Sadiq al-Ahmar, the eldest of 10 brothers, is also the titular head of the powerful Hashid tribal confederation – one of Yemen’s two main tribal confederations. The confederation, which includes Saleh’s Sanhan tribe, has become one of the biggest challenges to the president as tribal fighters clash with Saleh loyalists in the capital.
Sadiq is elderly and unlikely to take on more than a figurehead role, but his brother Hamid is a leading politician in the Islah party, which was founded by the Ahmar family and is one of the most powerful opposition parties in the country. He was a vocal opponent of the president well before the current uprising and has fashioned himself as a potential successor.
The father of the Ahmar brothers, Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar, was a major figure in Yemen. As head of the Hashid confederation, of Islah, and speaker of the lower house of parliament from 1993 to his death in 2007, he was said by some to be Yemen’s second-most powerful man after Saleh.
Two of his other sons are also political figures. Himyar al-Ahmar was deputy speaker of parliament until he resigned in March, and his brother Hussein was a member of the ruling party, the General People’s Congress, but resigned in February.