Rebel soldier killed amid clashes between military factions in Yemeni capital

Rebel soldier killed amid clashes between military factions in Yemeni capital
# 14 April 2011 04:33 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Security forces clashed with anti-government protesters Wednesday, and at least one rebel soldier was killed as fighting broke out between rival military factions here, APA reports quoting “The Washington Post”.
Forces loyal to the pro-democracy movement marched down the city’s main road toward the airport, setting up checkpoints as they continued to seize territory, and government forces were ordered to stop the rebel advance.
Demonstrators have been rallying across Yemen since February, demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. But the fighting Wednesday was the first outbreak of violence between rival military factions since the defection last month of Yemeni Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a political rival of Saleh’s. The embattled president has threatened “mutinous” military commanders that he would drag the country into a “long, bloody civil war” if they continue to support pro-democracy protesters.
“We pray that there will be no more clashes with our fellow countrymen. However, if attacked again, we are committed to defending ourselves,” rebel Col. Abdul Salaam al-Aliyani said Wednesday.
Rebel soldiers have set up in checkpoints and campsites along Sanaa’s main road, less than a mile from the country’s largest international airport. They have also positioned themselves near the state television station in the same area.
Mohsen’s largest military base in Sanaa also is positioned along this major highway, as is the base of Saleh’s Republican Guard. The rival factions have set up camp within hundreds of yards of each other.
Abdul Rabo, 28, a mechanic with a shop along the road where the fighting took place, described the fierce firefight. “The two armies exchanged AK-47 and RPG fire for at least an hour,” Rabo said. “I had to take cover behind a restaurant because I knew I would die if an RPG round hit my small house next to my shop.”
Yemeni political analyst Abdul Ghani al-Iryani said it is only a matter of time before Mohsen’s forces seize control of the airport and the state television station.
“The 1st armored brigade is postured to take both the airport and Yemen TV. Ali- Mohsen sees these two strategic points as valuable bargaining chips,” Iryani said. “The two military factions do not want to fight each other, but at this point there is no way to prevent further clashes between them.”
Boone is a special correspondent.
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