SANA, Yemen - Clashes between Yemeni soldiers and armed tribesmen in a mountainous region north of the capital killed at least 40 people yesterday, a military official said.
The fighting in the Arhab region is one example of the wider security collapse across Yemen since the outbreak of a massive uprising seeking to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh six months ago.
Armed tribesmen are battling security forces in Arhab, the southern city of Taiz, and elsewhere, while militants believed to be linked to Al Qaeda have overrun towns in the country’s restive south.
The United States and Yemen’s powerful Gulf Arab neighbors worry that Al Qaeda and other militant groups will exploit the security vacuum in Yemen to step up operations.
Yesterday’s clashes northeast of Sana’s international airport began when tribesmen attacked a base belonging to the Republican Guard, said Sheik Hamid Assem of the Arhab tribe.
The elite unit responded by shelling and bombing tribal positions, Assem said, killing and injuring a number of civilians, though he was unsure how many because the battle was still happening.
A military official in Arhab said 17 soldiers had been killed in the fighting and that the troops had seen the bodies of at least 23 dead tribesmen.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry blamed opposition parties and army units that have defected to the anti-Saleh camp for the attack.
Far from Sana, security forces and armed government loyalists fired on antigovernment demonstrators in the southeastern coastal city of Al Shahr, killing one and injuring three, a resident said on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.