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Terrorism & Security

Saleh deploys US-trained counterterrorism forces as tribes escalate fight

Gen. Ali Moshen al-Ahmar, a top military leader who defected in March, has backed the powerful Hashid tribal confederation with 1,000 troops of his own.

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The Journal reports that the general's decision to back the Ahmars "holds potential to move the country toward a sustained civil war, or urge it to a more decisive end" if Saleh scales back his violence to prevent being held responsible for massive casualties. Ahmar has an estimated 40,000 troops as well as heavy artillery at his disposal, while Saleh has some 50,000-60,000 troops.

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As Saleh attempts to drive out the tribal fighters who have flocked to Sanaa, he is also waging battles in the southern city of Taiz, where peaceful protests were held for several months before being brutally dispersed this week, and Zinjibar, which Saleh's forces this weekend ceded to Islamist militants who they claim are linked with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

His grip on power is slipping as his forces are spread more thinly, and doubts are growing that a transfer of power can still be negotiated. Saleh has already allowed three power transfer deals to collapse. The more likely scenario now is that he will be ousted, Time reports.

"The sizable cohort of Yemen's armed forces seeking Saleh's ouster – which includes Major General Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, the President's half-brother and commander of 1st armored division – appears to be swelling. A statement read out by former defense minister Abdullah Ali Eliwa and signed by nine senior army officials accused Saleh of "handing Zanjibar to terrorists" in order to "frighten people that if he goes, Yemen will become Somalia."

While fierce fighting continues in the capital, with constant gunfire and shelling, the humanitarian situation facing its civilian residents is increasingly dire. Most work has stopped, stores are closed, and shipments of necessary goods – food and gas, among others – has stalled. Time reported that many residents are attempting to flee and those who remain are hoarding all of their supplies and money.

"No safety, no electricity, no water, no phone network, and people with no jobs, the situation is very bad these days," says Ahmed Zaid, a man from old Sana'a who scratches a living by ferrying people to Tagheer Square, the epicenter of the protests, on his battered Suzuki motorbike. "I myself I'm terrified for my family, we're leaving tomorrow, inshallah," he says in broken English and using the Arabic for "God willing."

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