Yemen tribesmen 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
SANAA - An informal ceasefire between President Ali Abdullah Saleh's security forces and a tribal group brought a pause in fighting on Saturday after nearly a week of deadly clashes left Yemen near civil war.
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Fighting this week has killed some 115 people, prompted thousands of residents to flee Sanaa and raised the specter of chaos that could benefit the Yemen-based branch of al-Qaida and threaten adjacent Saudi Arabia, the world's No. 1 oil exporter.
Tribal sources and residents said there had been no renewal of fighting in Sanaa's northern district of Hasaba, site of heavy clashes this week for control of government buildings, and outside the capital.
"Mediation is going to resume later this afternoon," a government official told Reuters.
The latest fighting, pitting Saleh's security forces against members of
the powerful Hashed tribe led by Sadeq al-Ahmar, was the bloodiest since
pro-democracy unrest erupted in January and was sparked by a Saleh
refusal to sign a power transfer deal.
A prestigious think tank, the International Crisis Group, said a broad
ceasefire was needed immediately and should be part of a plan that leads
to a transition of power.
"To prevent further escalation and loss of life, the most urgent step is
for both sides to immediately accept a ceasefire mediated by Yemen's
statesmen and tribal leaders," it said in a "conflict risk alert" issued
late on Friday.
Foreign states should be involved, it said, "but, given the deeply
personal and tribal nature of the feud between the Salehs and al-Ahmars,
it cannot be addressed effectively by international mediation or
Global powers have little sway in Yemen, where tribal allegiances are
the most powerful element in a volatile social fabric and the fighting
already appears to be playing out along tribal lines.
On Friday, Yemeni tribesmen said they had captured a military compound
from elite troops loyal to the president 100 km (60 miles) outside
Sanaa, widening a conflict hitherto concentrated mainly in the capital
near the home of Ahmar.
The fighting has overshadowed a largely peaceful protest movement that
started months ago aimed at ending Saleh's 33-year-long autocratic rule
and inspired by the movements that brought down the long-standing
leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.
"Urban youth and civil society activists, who initiated the protest
movement, stand to lose the most from this turn of events," the ICG