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Terrorism & Security

Fresh fighting breaks out in Yemen

The dynamic in Yemen's long-simmering uprising has significantly changed, with factions of the armed forces battling each other – threatening to turn the largely peaceful uprising into civil war.

By Correspondent / September 29, 2011

A Yemeni armed tribe loyal to anti-government protesters holds his gun in the Al Hasba neighborhood of Sanaa, today. Heavy clashes rocked northern neighborhoods of Yemen's capital, breaking a truce aimed at ending the worst violence since a popular revolt against President Ali Abdullah Saleh began eight months ago.

Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

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Fresh fighting broke out in Yemen's capital today, heightening concerns that increasing division among armed tribal factions and splits in Yemen’s armed forces may lead the Arab world’s poorest nation into full-blown civil war.

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Today the elite Republican Guard, led by President Ali Abdullah Saleh's son, engaged in fierce clashes with soldiers loyal to dissident Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who once served as the "iron fist" of Mr. Saleh's regime but is now one of his most powerful rivals.

The fighting has broken a three-day period of calm that provided some hope that Saleh would return to a peace plan designed by other Gulf nations, reports Raidió Teilifís Éireann. Diplomats had urged Saleh to stay in Saudi Arabia where he spent three months recuperating after a rocket attack, but he returned on Sept. 23, triggering much unrest.

The Christian Science Monitor reported yesterday that the entrance of Mohsen's troops into the fray since Saleh's return has significantly changed the dynamic of fighting in Sanaa, and could transform what has until now been a largely peace uprising into true civil war.

Mohsen’s troops are now fully intermixed with the protesters; cruising through the camp in the back of armored vehicles, chewing qat in protester’s tents, even being treated alongside injured protesters in the nearby field hospital. Initial doubt over whether the renegade troops would aid their cause has largely been replaced by the prevailing attitude that they are the “heroes and vanguards” of the revolution.

“In an ideal world we wouldn’t need the firqa [Mohsen's troops] but now it’s different, it’s clear to us now that without them we’d be slaughtered,” a young protester leader named Adel told the Monitor on Monday. The fear remains though that their increasingly active role may help justify an even tougher crackdown by the regime on the basis they are fighting armed groups and not civilian demonstrators.

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