Feature: Dozens killed in clashes in Yemen's capital before soldiers, tribesmen declare truce

15:36, June 08, 2011      

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Ruins on a street are seen in Sanaa, capital of Yemen, June 6, 2011. Yemeni Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi on Sunday removed troops and security checkpoints from downtown Sanaa, where government forces and chieftain-led tribesmen had fought with each other for two weeks. (Xinhua)

by Mohamed al-Azaki, Wang Qiuyun

Days of deadly clashes between Yemen' s government troops and opposition-backed tribal gunmen came to an end on Tuesday after the two sides reached a temporary truce brokered by Saudi Arabia, leaving dozens killed in downtown Sanaa.

Residents have been allowed to pass through the war-striken Hassaba district since Monday after two weeks' blocking, based on a Saudi-mediated truce deal reached between armed tribesmen supporting powerful opposition tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar and the government forces.

The truce, which was brokered by the Saudi government, stroke last Saturday between the Yemeni government and al-Ahmar, hours after a rocket hit the presidential palace in the southern tip of Sanaa that injured President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a number of high-ranking officials.

A day later, Saleh, who faces protests for months across the country calling for an end to his 33-year rule, was airlifted to the Saudi capital Riyadh for medical treatment as Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi was assigned to run the affairs of the country as acting president.

On Sunday, Hadi asked both sides to withdraw from Hassaba and lift roadblocks.

However, eyewitness, residents and soldiers said that they saw dozens of bodies littered several streets of Hassaba district, where the heaviest gun battles raged for two weeks.

"Today, while I was passing through a main street in Hassaba area, I was scared by two bodies littered a few meters in front of the Ministry of Local Administrative, which was regained control by government forces after it was seized by armed supporters of al- Ahmar," eyewitness Adelal-Yazidy told Xinhua on Monday.

"The air was filled with the overpowering stench as soldiers, who barricaded themselves behind sand bags alongside the gate of the ministry shouted at me to go away from the area," al-Yazidy said, adding that the "bodies apparently belong to the well-armed tribal fighters led by al-Ahmar."

Saddam Hizam and Adnan al-Balata, two passers-by said that while driving, they saw on Monday about ten bodies belonging to al- Ahmar's gunmen laying on a street linking the residential compound of al-Ahmar to the headquarter of official SABA news agency, which was re-controlled by the Special Forces last week, days after being taken over by al-Ahmar's fighters.

Other residents said that they also closely saw some dead bodies of al-Ahmar's supporters scattered around the building of the ruling party headquarters and intersection near the Interior Ministry.

The vital Hassaba district, in which 11 government buildings located, had been bombarded by mortar shelling, rockets, rocket- propelled grenades, artilleries, tanks and heavy machine guns in the clashes between government forces and armed tribesmen since May 23, according to security officials.

Although the majority of local residents had fled the area as the two-week fighting left tens of residents' houses damaged or destroyed by random shelling from both sides, a few residents still stayed to protect their properties and appealed to the authorities to remove the dead bodies form their neighborhoods for fear that those bodies could spread epidemic among their families.

Adel al-Yazidy, a resident said "all dead bodies were eventually removed on Tuesday evening by the government forces ... as well as all roadblocks were also lifted in Hassaba."

"We do not stand with any political forces ... what we want is the return of security and stability to our neighborhood in order to bring back our families ... and the return of power and water supplies to our houses in order to live normally," al-Yazidy added.

Source: Xinhua
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