The unrest in Yemen has spread to the south, despite an announced ceasefire in the capital. Al Qaeda-linked militants seized a city. The risks of expanding al Qaeda safe-havens and of state fragmentation are increasing.
The regime is escalating the use of force outside the capital. Yemeni security forces fired on tens of thousands of protestors in Taiz on May 29. Republican Guard soldiers stormed the main protest camp, reportedly setting fire to tents and using bulldozers to remove them. At least 11 people were killed and over 160 others wounded, many seriously.
Yemeni military helicopters attacked a city that was seized by al Qaeda-linked militants. Members of the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, whose members fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, had taken control of the southern city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan governorate. At least 34 people have been killed in the city since May 27.
An elite Republican Guard unit defected over the use of violence against peaceful protestors. Brigadier General Ibrahim al Jayfi, the commander of the Republican Guard’s Ninth Brigade based in Dhamar governorate, announced the defection of his unit in a letter.
Tribal mediators reached an agreement in Sana’a. Tribesmen will hand over all public buildings under their control and security forces will withdraw from positions in residential buildings. The accord went into effect the morning of May 29, but explosions in al Hasaba district, where the fighting in the capital has been concentrated, were heard later in the day.
The escalation of fighting and the beginnings of tribal mobilization for internal conflict, together with the growing distance between the opposition's demands and Saleh's position, significantly increases the likelihood of widespread civil war in Yemen. The danger of state fragmentation and of expanding al Qaeda safe-havens is also growing.
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