Yemen heads toward civil war as Saleh escalates fight with major tribal leader
Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh has called for the arrest of Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, who is leading as many as 10,000 armed men from Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation.
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Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered the arrest Thursday of Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, the leader of Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation. The move could escalate already serious clashes in Sanaa between security forces loyal to Saleh and thousands of armed tribal fighters, potentially igniting civil war.
Fighters loyal to President Saleh and Mr. Ahmar clashed overnight Wednesday in the capital Sanaa, leaving dozens dead, according to Al Jazeera. The fighting has raged since Monday, after yet another deal for Saleh to step down failed. An ammunition store belonging to Mr. Ahmar's fighters exploded Wednesday night, killing 28, Agence France-Presse reports.
IN PICTURES: Yemen protests
Ahmar is the titular head of the powerful Hashid tribal confederation, which also includes Saleh's family. His younger brother Hussein bin Abdullah al-Ahmar was a former member of Saleh's government, but resigned from the ruling party in March and threw his weight behind the protesters, joining their calls for Saleh to step down. Saleh has reportedly called for the arrest of all 10 Ahmar brothers, whose fighters have captured about 70 members of Yemen's security forces and declared they won't stop fighting until Saleh resigns. (Editor's note: The original version misstated which Ahmar brother resigned from the ruling party.)
According to the The Wall Street Journal, about 10,000 members of the Hashid tribal confederation have come to Sanaa in recent days to join the fighting. They have gained control of several government building in the fighting, including the Ministry of the Interior. There are about 30,000 troops from Yemen's Republican Guard and security forces deployed throughout Sanaa, led by Saleh family members. Pitched battles between Saleh's security forces and armed tribesmen is a "worst-case scenario" for the US, the Journal notes.
Amid the rapidly deteriorating security situation, on Wednesday the US ordered all nonessential diplomats out of the country and urged any Americans living there to leave, the Associated Press reports – a big step up from the previous travel warning, which allowed nonessential diplomats to leave but did not order it and merely suggested that Americans consider leaving.