Published: Mar 28, 2011 00:41 Updated: Mar 28, 2011 00:41
SANAA: As Yemen searches for a solution to the current political crisis, many restive areas in the poverty-stricken country have broken away from the central government and are being governed by local armed groups. The regime has lost its grip on many provinces such as Saada, Jawf, Abyan and Shabwa.
In the northern province of Saada, Houthi rebels seized control of the province following clashes with local tribes, a resident told Arab News. The rebels now run government facilities and control checkpoints. Residents approved Faris Manna, a notorious arms dealer, as replacement for the governor who has fled to the capital. Police deserted their posts and relocated themselves to army camps.
In Shabwa, armed men from Southern Movement attacked and looted Central Security camps. They are now in full control of four major districts including Nessab, Al-Saaed, Haban and Maevaa, a local journalist told Arab News by telephone. The government’s writ runs only in Ataq, the capital of the province, and another district, Bayhan.
The journalist, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that anti-terrorism forces that were deployed to fight Al-Qaeda in Shabwa, no longer exist. Shabwa is the ancestral land of Anwar Al-Awlaki, a radical American cleric, who is thought to be hiding in the mountainous area.
Extremists raided Sunday a government office and a local TV station and exchanged fire with security forces in Jaar province. Earlier, the same armed group looted a weapons factory.
In the central province of Mareb, suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen shot dead seven soldiers and injured nine on Sunday, a local source said. The assailants attacked a military checkpoint in the troubled province, killing the soldiers and took a military vehicle.
Marebpress, an independent website, reported Sunday that Yemeni security forces released prominent Southern Movement leaders who were arrested more than a month ago. President Ali Abdullah Saleh also ordered the release of Hassan Baoum, a key figure of the movement, and his son Fawaz. Baoum was arrested on Feb. 20 in Aden. Southern Movement is regarded by the government as a secessionist organization that has called for Yemen’s breakup.
On Sunday, Saleh, who is under pressure from tens of thousands of Yemenis protesting in the streets to demand his departure after 32 years in power, convened a meeting of his ruling General People's Congress party. A party source said that its central committee, which contains thousands of members, had asked Saleh to stay in power until 2013, when his presidential term expires.