Islamist militants are pushing into surrounding areas from their strongholds. Armed militants advanced on a sport stadium adjacent to a military base five miles east of Zinjibar, the Abyan governorate capital. The militants captured the stadium during clashes with Yemeni army soldiers. Yemeni officials claimed that a contingent of 2,000 troops based in the area regained control of the stadium, which is used to store provisions; fighting is ongoing in the area. The militants, operating under the name “Ansar al Sharia,” have controlled large areas of Zinjibar since late May.
Tribesmen north of the capital, Sana’a, called on the Republican Guard to cease attacks. Representatives of the Arhab tribe appealed to Yemeni Vice President Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi to cease attacks on their villages by Republican Guard forces. The Yemeni air force recently bombed sites in nearby Nihm district, where anti-regime tribes and Yemeni government force have fought.
The Yemeni government has lost significant control over territory as officials meet with President Saleh in Saudi Arabia. Yemen’s foreign minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said after a meeting in Saudi Arabia that Saleh instructed him to speak with the opposition parties about UN-backed proposal. It is unclear, however, how these potential talks will reverse the loss of government control in key areas. Vice President Abdul Rab Mansour al Hadi said the government has lost control over five governorates; he did not list specific governorates, but suggested that Abyan was one of them.
Protests continued across Yemen on Friday. In Sana’a, opposition supporters convened as Friday prayer leaders called on acting authorities to end the political impasse. The opposition coalition Joint Meeting Parties announced that it would begin internal discussions regarding a transitional council over the weekend.
The Yemeni state is undergoing fragmentation and a resolution to the political crisis in the capital will not result in a unified state. The current situation has increased al Qaeda's operating space in Yemen.
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