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Friday, April 15, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Yemen's Saleh moves from 'persuasion' to 'force' in battle with opposition

CAIRO — Troops loyal to besieged Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have launched an offensive against military units that defected to the opposition.


Officials said Saleh has deployed elite units to attack military forces that joined the opposition over the last month. They said the operation was focused on regaining control over the Sanaa area.

"The president has decided that the chaos can no longer continue, and after employing persuasion he has moved to force," an official said.

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Saleh has assigned the crackdown on mutinous military units to his Republican Guard and Central Security Forces, Middle East Newsline reported. Both of them were said to have received extensive U.S. and British training over the last two years.

On April 13, Saleh forces attacked the military's First Armored Division in Sanaa and captured a checkpoint. Officials said at least two people were killed in an operation commanded by Saleh's son.

In March, the First Armored Division, led by Gen. Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, announced it was joining the opposition. Since then, the division, equipped with Russian-origin T-72 main battle tanks, has taken positions around Sanaa, including near presidential palace.

Scores of senior military officers have defected from the Saleh regime and joined the opposition. The officers have sought to bring their units to protect the opposition movement from regime attacks, which have included live fire.

Over the last week, Saleh appeared to have hardened his determination to remain in power. Officials acknowledged that the president was no longer considering proposals for him to step down.

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