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Middle East

Clashes near Yemen Interior Ministry kill 15

A police armoured personnel carrier is seen at a road block following clashes outside the Interior Ministry in Sanaa July 31, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED HUWAIS)

SANAA: Fifteen people were killed and 43 wounded in fighting Tuesday between Yemeni government forces and armed tribesmen loyal to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh who were trying to storm the Interior Ministry in Sanaa, security and medical officials said.

Many other people were wounded in one of the heaviest fighting in the capital since Saleh signed a deal to relinquish power last year after months of protests against his rule, the source said.

Security forces regained control of the situation, a government source said. A Reuters witness saw three armored vehicles and soldiers guarding the entrance to the ministry.

The showdown highlighted ongoing instability in Yemen five months after Saleh was replaced by his deputy under a plan designed to end the political upheaval that weakened government control over parts of the country.

Dozens of tribesmen exchanged fire with security forces during their second attempt at seizing the ministry in three days, to demand jobs in the police force.

The tribesmen say they were promised jobs in reward for siding with Saleh during the uprising that unseated him.

Around 100 tribesmen Sunday occupied the ministry, vacating it Monday after officials promised to heed their demands.

It was not clear whether those killed were tribesmen or government forces.

The ministry storming is the latest challenge for President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who is trying to restructure the armed forces and restore a semblance of normality to the country.

Tribal traditions are strong in Yemen, where chiefs who command thousands of fighters often pledge loyalty to one political leader or another. Many tribal fighters sided with Saleh.

Tribesmen have fought alongside government troops in a U.S.-backed offensive against Al-Qaeda-linked militants that drove insurgents out of several southern towns last month.

Tribesmen were behind the kidnapping of an Italian embassy security officer Sunday, the Interior Ministry said.

A Yemeni official said the governor of the oil-producing province of Maarib, where the Carabinieri officer is being held, was mediating with the abductors for his release.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 01, 2012, on page 9.

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