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Feature: Growing military tension forces Yemeni rivals army to recruit thousands

By by Faris al-Hemyari, Wang Qiuyun (Xinhua)

11:10, August 15, 2011

SANAA, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- As the military tension escalated recently between the Yemeni government forces and defected army, the rivals are trying to recruit more jobless young people to reinforce their troops on the front line.

Thousands of young people crowded in front of the headquarters of the defected army in the capital Sanaa, while about 5,000 have already been recruited and armed with rifles by the dissident First Armored Division commanded by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, officers of the division told Xinhua.

The headquarters is adjacent to the Changing Square outside the Sanaa University, where tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have been camping out for seven months to press for an immediate end to the 33-year rule of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The new recruits, who are mainly protesters, are affiliated with the opposition coalition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), which is trying to peacefully press to ouster Saleh.

The country's Defense Ministry on Sunday warned the job-seekers not to join defected army units led by al-Ahmar, who backs the anti-government protesters' demand of ousting the wounded president.

"The recruit by the defected First Armored Division is illegal, " it said in a statement posted on its website.

"The Defense Ministry is not obliged to pay salaries to those who were recruited through such illegal measures because they lack of official financial allocations approved by the Financial Ministry," the ministry added.

Dhiyab Mohamed, 19, one of those recruited and armed three months ago by the defected army, was sent to support the anti- government tribesmen of the powerful opposition leader Sadiq al- Ahmar on the front line of the street battles late in May against the government forces in downtown Sanaa.

The battles lasted less than a month and left about 300 from the two sides dead, ending by a Saudi mediation.

"We have not received enough military training and not even any instructions on how to use the weapons so far," Mohamed told Xinhua while holding his rifle, wearing the military uniform, during manning a military checkpoint in the Hassaba district in Sanaa.

"The poverty prevented me from pursuing further education in high schools and pushed me along with others to join the defected army," he said, adding that "most of us, however, have yet got any salary ... but the commanders promised to fix such problems very soon."

The conflict between the government troops and defected army for power forced both sides to establish more military checkpoints and recruit more soldiers as precautionary measures for any attack from each other.

"The process of recruitments by the First Armored Division comes in the context of the dire need to increase the number of soldiers to fill new sites and checkpoints," a defected military officer of the division told Xinhua.

The same motivation are behind the government army, which also established more checkpoints and deployed more forces in Sanaa, as thousands of young people newly joined it, including the country's elite Republican Guards.

On the other hand, those raw soldiers said they received good military training, including the use of different weapons, as well as monthly fixed salaries.

"We are well equipped, trained and paid," a 20-year-old Republican Guard's soldier Yahya Mohammed told Xinhua while he was off duty.

The recruitments are still going on, while the fresh clashes between the rival forces flared up again, sporadically inside and outside the capital.

Military tensions in the impoverished Arab country have been rapidly growing since the eruption of the opposition-backed protests in February.

Saleh, who was forced to receive treatment in Saudi Arabia for burn injuries he sustained in an assassination bomb attack on his palace in Sanaa on June 3, was discharged from the hospital on Aug. 6. The veteran president promised to transfer power peacefully based on a deal initiated by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The political negotiations and military tensions are currently racing each other, as Saleh's ruling party and the opposition JMP have not reached any declared compromise.

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