Interior disorder: 15 dead after Yemeni tribesmen try to besiege ministry

Fifteen people were killed and 43 wounded in fierce clashes between Yemeni government forces and tribesmen attempting to seize the country’s Interior Ministry in the capital, Sanaa.

It was the second time in three days that Yemeni tribesmen loyal to ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to storm the ministry, Reuters reports.

The siege began on Monday evening, when gunmen partly belonging to a rebel Shia group under the command of a “relative of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh” exchanged fire with security forces, according to Xinhua news agency.

Xinhua reports that as many as 300 gunmen took part in the second attempted siege, though other reports put the number in the dozens.

Security forces have regained control of the situation. Three armored vehicles and soldiers are reportedly stationed outside the ministry’s entrance to help quell any further violence.

Dozens of wounded soldiers were reportedly rushed to local hospitals by several ambulances.

Yemeni police reported that pro-government tribesmen led by Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar – a national politician and the leader of the Hashid tribal federation – were deployed in the area around the ministry to help police contain the situation.

Heavy fighting began on Sunday when some 100 armed tribesmen briefly occupied the ministry, police said.  They demanded police jobs for their role in defeating al-Qaeda insurgents, and only agreed to leave the building a day later when officials promised to consider their demands.

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A police armoured personnel carrier is seen at a road block following clashes outside the Interior Ministry in Sanaa July 31, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Huwais)
A police armoured personnel carrier is seen at a road block following clashes outside the Interior Ministry in Sanaa July 31, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Huwais)

Arab Spring leaves turmoil in its wake

Turmoil in Yemen has continued in the wake of Arab Spring protests that forced former president Saleh to step down after a 33-year rule, ceding the position to Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, his deputy.

Tribal chiefs command armies of thousands in the southern part of the country, and their loyalty could be crucial for Hadi in his bid to restructure the armed forces and stabilize the country.

Yemeni tribesmen often strike local gas and oil pipelines and kidnap foreigners to put pressure on Sanaa. On July 29, a security officer of the Italian embassy was kidnapped by an unknown group.

Ahmar has promised Giulio Terzi, Italy’s Foreign Minister, that the Italian citizen will be rescued.

Tensions between regional tribes and Yemen's central government further complicate the situation, with a crackdown underway against al-Qaeda’s presence in the country. The terrorist organization still remains a threat to the Yemeni government, despite US special ops providing support, including regular drone strikes against supposed al-Qaeda militants.

In May, a suicide bomber struck a large group of soldiers rehearsing for a military parade in Sanaa. The bombing claimed the lives of 96 soldiers, leaving over 300 wounded.

A security officer is seen standing outside the Interior Ministry in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on July 31, 2012 (AFP Photo / Gamal Noman)
A security officer is seen standing outside the Interior Ministry in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on July 31, 2012 (AFP Photo / Gamal Noman)