Yemen Crisis Situation Reports: Update 126

January 23, 2012

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has received complete immunity and left for the U.S., but protests continue against him and his family across Yemen. Al Qaeda-linked militants continue to hold recently expanded territory in southern Yemen.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh left Yemen on Sunday evening, flying initially to Oman. He will eventually travel to the U.S. for medical treatment. The Yemeni government announced that Saleh would return to Yemen in time to attend the swearing-in of his successor following the February 21 elections. The Yemeni president was severely burned during an attack on his palace in June 2011.

Al Qaeda-linked militants hold onto control of Rada’a, a city just a few hours to the southeast of Sana’a. Tribesmen have reportedly begun resisting the militants’ attempt to consolidate their positions. Four militants and one soldier were killed in clashes in the city on Sunday. Locals reported that Yemeni military forces, tanks, and armored vehicles were approaching a base in the area. Last weekend militants belonging to the al Qaeda-linked group Ansar al Sharia stormed the town, which is within striking distance of a major artery connecting the capital to the south.

The Yemeni parliament passed legislation on Saturday granting complete immunity to President Saleh. The law also grants immunity to Saleh’s aides for all “politically motivated” crimes, excluding “acts of terrorism.” Parliament also passed a law officially nominating Vice President Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi as a candidate for the February presidential elections.

Protests continue across Yemen. Tens of thousands marched in Sana'a on Sunday against the newly passed immunity law. Air force soldiers staged protests, including at the Sana’a international airport, calling for the ouster of air force commander Major General Mohammed Saleh. Maj. Gen. Saleh is President Saleh’s half-brother.

The director of Sana’a’s political security prison was assassinated today during a trip to Dhamar. The official, al Raid al Jabri, had previously received assassination threats from al Qaeda. The political security prison holds a number of al Qaeda-linked detainees. Dhamar falls on the road between Rada’a and the capital, Sana’a.

The Joint Meetings Party, the opposition coalition in Yemen, signed an accord with the al Houthis in the north. After months of tension between the parties, both agreed on a statement promising to work together to realize the goals of the Yemeni revolution and to build a civil society.   

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