Yemen: 28 killed in 3 days of fighting in Taiz

December 4, 2011 - 3:10 PM
Mideast Yemen

Protestors gesture during a demonstration demanding the prosecution of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, Dec. 2, 2011.(AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Clashes between the Yemeni army and tribal fighters in the southern city of Taiz have left at least 28 people dead over the past three days, activists and medical officials said Sunday, despite a power transfer deal signed by the president aimed at ending the country's political crisis.

Mohammed al-Shogaa, a doctor working at a makeshift field hospital in main protest square, said that shelling by government forces of residential areas since Friday had killed 13 civilians, among them three children and two women. Activists and residents said at least eight tribal fighters also were killed, while the Defense Ministry said that seven army troops were killed over the same period.

Al-Shogaa said at least 53 people have been wounded, and that ambulances and rescue workers have not been able to reach wounded civilians because of ongoing street fighting in the impoverished Arab nation. Three hospitals in Taiz reported being shelled by the country's Republican Guards, led by longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh's son.

Taiz, a hotbed of anti-Saleh protests and Yemen's second-largest city, has been regularly shelled by the military in response to hit-and-run attacks by armed tribesmen.

The violence has raged despite an agreement signed by Saleh late last month to step down. The deal transfers power to the vice president and grants Saleh immunity from prosecution.

Meanwhile, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's office issued a statement Sunday saying that a military committee of 14 opposition and loyalist generals had been formed.

The committee is to suggest reforms for Yemen's security forces that aim to purge both the defense and interior ministries of individuals who have committed crimes against protesters during Saleh's reign. It is to present its findings to a new transitional Cabinet, once it has been formed.

Forming the committee was one of several key demands of protesters. The U.N. estimates that hundreds of unarmed protesters have been killed and thousands wounded since anti-Saleh protests began ten months ago.

The agreement signed by Saleh in neighboring Saudi Arabia last month stipulated that the military committee be formed by Friday, the same day that tanks and soldiers were supposed to be removed from the streets of Yemen.

Yemen's vice president met Sunday with U.S., British and EU ambassadors to discuss the country's transitional phase.

In the south of the country, security forces said al-Qaida-linked militants attacked a military base in Zinjibar, the provincial capital city of Abyan, killing five soldiers and 12 militants, a security official said on spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

Security has collapsed across much of Yemen as a result of the political turmoil, allowing militants expand their reach beyond Yemen's remote hinterlands.

The fighting is part of the army's campaign to regain control of Zinjibar and other areas in the south that have fallen into the hands of the militants since March. The fighting there has forced at least 100,000 residents to flee Abyan province and find refuge in neighboring provinces.