Yemen

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Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Fighting terrorists never works out as we hope. The threat of violent extremists is not new to this millennium. Fears of small, organized groups undermining authority at home and abroad go back at least to the 19th century in Europe, North America and other continents. The fears of harm usually exceed the realities of danger, but the dangers are real nonetheless. Although terrorists have never brought down a major power, they have caused major dislocation and suffering in countless societies (including Russia, Germany and China.)

The contemporary Middle East has endured decades of terrorism since at least the early 1970s. The extremism has silenced moderate voices and the violence has splintered governing institutions into tribal tyrannies. The disintegration of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen and other countries, and the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS, among others, are recent manifestations of this historical process. The terrorists have hijacked the region’s politics and replaced civil society with gang warfare. Citizens are defined by the group they belong to; disloyalty is punished with death.

Recognizing that terrorism in the Middle East threatens the broader international community, Americans have spent decades trying to fight it. The nature of American counter-terrorism has shifted in regular fashion between two schools of thought.

One school, the “development” approach, has emphasized investments in education, health and economic growth to encourage citizens of terrorized societies to embrace good government. The goal has been to build a grassroots constituency for civil authority and a broad cohort of citizens with the skills to run a prosperous, open society. The Peace Corps, the World Bank, USAID and many other American-sponsored organizations pursue this approach of treating the poor conditions that appear to produce terrorism.

The second school, the “combat” approach, defines terrorists as foreign armies that must be defeated. Proponents of this approach deploy overwhelming force to kill and capture terrorist leaders, destroy their resources and punish their supporters. Through aggressive intelligence work, including the torture of suspected terrorists with valuable information, the combat school aims to grind terrorist organizations to dust, making them more pathetic than threatening. Unmanned aerial vehicles (“drones”), Army and Navy Special Forces and CIA covert operatives are the lead actors for those who seek to go in hard and fast to defeat the extremists.

In our long history with counterterrorism, Americans have alternated their emphasis between these two schools, experiencing the frustrating limits of each. In the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War, the United States focused on development in the Middle East, encouraging investments in business enterprises, the rule of law and education throughout the region. Each of these areas of development showed some progress, but powerful actors (including the oil-rich leaders of the Gulf states and wealthy individuals like Osama bin Laden) also expanded their support for terrorist groups. While regional development contributed to a new generation of entrepreneurs, it also inspired a new generation of extremists among those who turned to religious fundamentalisms rather than more cosmopolitan ideas.

Following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, Americans decisively favored force over development. That seemed necessary to stop the groups that had shown a desire and a capability of killing thousands of citizens. Force also appeared to produce results in the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. After 2003, when insurgencies in both countries exposed the limits of this strategy, Americans accepted that they could not totally destroy the terrorists, but they hoped to keep them scattered and under heavy pressure. Even as he withdrew American forces depart from Iraq and as troops withdraw from Afghanistan, President Barack Obama held to this strategy through the use of increased drone attacks on terrorist leaders, and special covert interventions, including the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011.

Of course, the use of force against terrorists has not proven more successful than prior development efforts. Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen are more dominated by terrorists today than they were in late 2001. The United States has spent billions of dollars training counter-terrorist forces in the region and bombing from the air, but it is not clear if these actions have killed or inspired more terrorists.

There is no proven solution to terrorism in either the development or the combat schools. Ignoring the problem, as many Americans might prefer now, is no solution either, especially when the fate of an economically vital region like the Middle East is at stake. The future of American counterterrorism policy will involve new innovative ways to mix the promise of development with the power of combat. The United States has failed to strike the correct balance in recent decades. Finding the pathways to civil order between corrupting handouts of foreign aid and alienating attacks from the air – that is the supreme challenge for a new generation of policy-makers. It is an intellectual opportunity for our best minds to help bring some order to a violent, fragmenting world.

Suri is a professor in the Department of History and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.  

SANAA, Yemen — A Saudi diplomat was kidnapped on his way to work Wednesday in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, a Yemeni security official said.

It was the first kidnapping of a Saudi diplomat in this impoverished country, where abductions are frequent and where armed tribesmen and al-Qaida-linked militants take hostages in an effort to swap them for prisoners or cash.

The security official identified the diplomat as Abdullah al-Khaldi, the deputy consul at the Saudi consulate in Aden. No more details were immediately available. The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

It was not clear whether the abduction had any political motives.

Saudi Arabia and the rest of Gulf Cooperation Council countries have been heavily involved in a power-transfer deal that forced Yemen’s longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to relinquish power after a yearlong turmoil and mass protests against his rule. Saleh stepped down last month and handed power to his deputy.

Yemen’s turmoil has caused a security vacuum, which al-Qaida has used to seize large swaths of territory across the restive south.

Printed on Thursday, March 29, 2012 as: Saudi diplomat posted to Yemen kidnapped, reasons unknown

SANAA, Yemen — Sneaking across the desert behind army lines, al-Qaida militants launched a surprise attack against military bases in south Yemen, killing 107 soldiers and capturing heavy weapons they later used to kill more troops, officials said on Monday.

The military officials said at least 32 of the militants were killed in Sunday’s fighting in Abyan province, and scores were wounded on both sides. Medical officials in the area confirmed the death toll figures. They said the poor services in local hospitals accounted for the death of many soldiers who suffered serious wounds but could have survived had they been given better medical care.

The death toll among the troops is believed to be the highest on record in battles fought by the army against al-Qaida militants, who have been emboldened by the political turmoil roiling the impoverished Arab nation for more than a year.

The militants’ attack appeared to be al-Qaida’s response to a pledge by Yemen’s newly inaugurated President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to fight the Yemeni branch of the terror network, believed to be the world’s most active.

Hadi repeated that pledge on Monday during talks with a visiting British diplomat.

“The confrontation will continue until we are rid of the last terrorist, whether in Abyan or elsewhere,” local Yemeni media quoted him as saying.

The military officials said the militants’ surprise attack outside Abyan’s provincial capital Zinjibar also led to the capture of 55 soldiers. The captives were paraded on the streets of Jaar, a nearby town that, like Zinjibar, has been under al-Qaida’s control for about a year.

The officials spoke on Monday on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to reporters. The battle in Abyan province shows how militants have taken advantage of the turmoil created by the yearlong uprising against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who last month handed over power to Hadi.

Late Monday, the Defense Ministry said a soldier was killed and two others wounded when militants launched an attack on a military checkpoint in the southern province of Bayda, where al-Qaida took control in January.

In recent weeks in Bayda, there have been assassination attempts on security officials and a suicide bombing at a base belonging a force run by Saleh’s son.

The scale of Sunday’s attacks also points to the combat readiness of the militants as they launch more attacks in a region that the United States considers a key battleground in the war on al-Qaida.

Militants seized control of Zinjibar in May and Jaar the month before as Yemen security officials were focused on putting down a popular uprising against Saleh’s regime.

Saleh stepped down last month in a U.S.-backed power transfer deal that Washington hoped would allow Yemen’s new leaders to move against al-Qaida. But the fighting highlights the difficulties faced by Hadi in combatting the militant movement and restoring state authority in the lawless south.

Sunday’s fighting followed the dismissal last week by Hadi’s government of the military commander of the southern region, to which Abyan belongs, along with other security officials from the province.

The al-Qaida attack led to demonstrations on Monday by thousands of university students in the coastal city of Aden, Yemen’s second largest after Sanaa. The demonstrators demanded that Maj. Gen. Mahdi Maqoula, commander of an armored battalion deployed outside Zinjibar, be put on trial for suspicion of collaboration with al-Qaida.

The military officials said the militants were able to seize armored vehicles, artillery pieces, assault rifles and rockets from the stores of an army base they attacked. Some of the heavy weapons were later used against the troops, causing most of the casualties. The weapons were captured from Maqoula’s 31st armored battalion, according to the military officials.

A Defense Ministry statement on Sunday said the fighting began when militants detonated “booby trapped vehicles” at an army base in the region of Koud near Zinjibar. The wording of the statement suggested that the base had been occupied by the militants before army forces regrouped and took it back. The fighting lasted the whole day.

NEW YORK — A protest against embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside a luxury hotel in New York got heated Sunday when demonstrators saw him leave the building, with one charging toward him and another throwing a shoe.

“Everybody is living in fear of this guy at home, but here, he’s getting good treatment!” said Yemeni immigrant Nasser Almroot, a Brooklyn grocer.

The dozen angry protesters were kept behind police barricades across the street from the Ritz-Carlton hotel, which was teeming with security guards, both inside and on the sidewalk where Saleh passed.

The 69-year-old leader is visiting the United States for medical treatment.

He exited the hotel on Central Park South on Sunday afternoon and waved and smiled sardonically toward the yelling protesters — even blowing them a kiss. Suddenly, one of them tried to charge across the street but was restrained by police, who wrestled him to the ground.

“He can’t help it, the killer is here,” Almroot said.

As the man bolted out, a shoe flew in Saleh’s direction. Showing the sole of a shoe is an insult in Arab culture, because it is on the lowest part of the body, the foot. To hit someone with a shoe is seen as even worse.

Saleh got into his car and his motorcade left for an unknown destination.

Since he arrived in New York about a week ago, the Yemeni president has kept a low profile.

His presence, however, has been controversial.

On Sunday, the protesters hoisted placards bearing photos of Yemenis badly bloodied and brutally killed during his government’s yearlong crackdown on anti-Saleh demonstrations.

He signed a deal in November to transfer power to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

An election is scheduled on Feb. 21 to select his successor in a nation mired in poverty and divided among powerful tribes and political factions.

While Saleh has been an anti-terrorism ally of Washington, the United States has not officially welcomed a leader accused of killing hundreds of people during an uprising against his 33-year rule.

Saleh traveled to the United States with permission for a private visit.

In June, he was badly injured in an attack on his presidential palace — an assassination attempt after which he spent months in Saudi Arabia being treated for massive burns from the explosion that ripped through his palace mosque as he prayed.

A world-renowned burn center is in Manhattan, at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Hospital officials have not confirmed whether Saleh was a patient there.

Protestors react after receiving the news of the departure of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen on Saturday. A spokesman for Yemen’s embattled president says Ali Abdullah Saleh has left the country for the Persian Gulf country of Oman.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh left his battered nation Sunday on his way to the U.S. for medical treatment after passing power to his deputy and asking for forgiveness for any “shortcomings” during his 33-year rein.

But in a sign that Saleh’s role as Yemen’s top power broker is likely far from over, he said he would return to Yemen before the official power transfer next month to serve as the head of his ruling party.

Saleh’s departure marks a small achievement in the months of diplomatic efforts by the U.S. and Yemen’s powerful Gulf neighbors to ease the nearly year-old political crisis in the Arab world’s poorest country. An active al-Qaida branch there has taken advantage of the turmoil, stepping up operations and seizing territory.

After months of diplomatic pressure and mass protests calling for his ouster, Saleh signed a deal in November to transfer authority to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Still, Saleh continued to exercise power behind the scenes, sparking accusations he sought to scuttle the deal and cling to power.

Presidential spokesman Ahmed al-Soufi told The Associated Press that Saleh left Yemen’s capital Sanaa late Sunday on a plane headed for the Gulf sultanate of Oman.

A senior administration official said Ali Abdullah Saleh would travel to New York this week, and probably stay in the U.S. until no later than the end of February. U.S. officials believe Saleh’s exit from Yemen could lower the risk of disruptions in the lead-up to presidential elections planned there on Feb. 21.

The Obama administration faced a dilemma in deciding whether to let Saleh enter the U.S. after he requested a visa last month. It has long seen getting Saleh out of Yemen as an important step in ensuring the power transfer goes forward.

But some in the administration worried that welcoming Saleh would spark charges from the Arab world that the U.S. was harboring an autocrat responsible for deadly crackdowns on protesters.

To protect against this, the administration has sought assurances that Saleh will not seek to remain in the U.S.

An official close to Saleh said Sunday the president would undergo medical exams in Oman before heading to the U.S. The U.S. has forbidden him from any political activity in the U.S., the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorize to disclose diplomatic talks.

Saleh is likely seeking treatment for injuries sustained in a blast in his palace mosque last June 3 that left him badly burned. After the attack, Saleh traveled to Saudi Arabia for treatment, leaving many to suspect his power was waning. A few months later, however, he made a surprise return to Yemen and resumed his post.

Protestors react and shout slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Taiz, Yemen, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. The banner at right, in Arabic, re

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen — Gunmen in civilians clothes opened fire on anti-government protesters in Yemen’s capital, and tanks shelled residential neighborhoods in another major city, killing a 13-year-old boy and leaving at least a dozen people wounded Thursday, witnesses and a medical official said.

The attacks came as thousands of activists marched in the capital Sanaa and in the central city of Taiz, calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to face trial for his government’s crackdown on protesters.

For nearly 10 months, protesters have filled streets and public squares across Yemen, calling for the ouster of Saleh, who has been in power for three decades. While Saleh’s security forces have used deadly force to suppress the protests, international diplomacy has failed to resolve the crisis.

The U.N. Secretary General’s special envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, arrived in the country Thursday to seek progress on a U.S.-backed proposal to end the crisis. The plan was put forward by Yemen’s powerful Gulf Arab neighbors.

Under the plan, Saleh would step down and pass power to his vice president in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Saleh has agreed to the proposal three times, only to refuse to sign at the last minute.

Many Yemeni activists criticize the proposal for granting Saleh immunity and allowing him to stay on as head of the ruling party. They complain that it falls short of the democratic reforms and new government they want their uprising to achieve.

Thousands took to the streets in Sanaa and Taiz Thursday to call for Saleh to stand trial for his government’s deadly crackdown.

In Yemen’s second largest city, Taiz, tanks shelled residential neighborhoods, destroying several buildings, and security forces opened fire on a protest in the city’s center, killing a 13-year-old boy and wounding nine others, a medical official said.

The medical official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

Printed on Friday, November 11, 2011 as: Yemeni protesters meet gunfire

Hundreds of activists and 25 exonerated death row inmates demonstrated at the Texas Capitol and marched through downtown Austin Saturday afternoon as part of the 12th annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Kirsten Bokenkamp, communications coordinator of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said several ACLU members participated in Saturday’s march, and a major priority of the organization is to end the death penalty.

“It’s a cruel and unusual process,” Bokenkamp said. “We find it inconsistent with American values.”

According to an ACLU press release, the U.S. executed 46 people in 2010, not far behind Yemen with 53 executions.

In 2010, Texas executed 17 people, more than any other state that year and 37 percent of the 46 total executions in the US, according to a report by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The cost of the average death penalty case is three times more than imprisoning someone in maximum security for 40 years, according to the report’s citation of a Dallas Morning News article.

Bokenkamp said the death penalty should be abolished because it increases the financial burden states face and has failed its purpose of deterring crime.

“Research has shown the death penalty hasn’t made our state safer, and it drains our public funds,” Bokenkamp said.

Since 1973, 12 people have been released from Texas’ death row based on evidence of wrongful conviction, and three others are believed to have been executed despite strong evidence showing their innocence, according to the Texas Coalition report.

Many marchers held signs reading “Perry/Willingham 2012” in reference to Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the murder of his three children despite uncertainty about the forensic analysis used to convict him.

The group organizing the speeches of exonerated death row inmates, Witness to Innocence, brought its stories and opinions about the death penalty to the crowd of marchers.

David Keaton, exonerated former death row inmate and member of Witness to Innocence, said this year’s march is important because of Rick Perry’s death penalty history and his campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

“The march today was fantastic,” Keaton said. “It will really give something for Rick Perry to think about while he’s campaigning.”

Delbert Tibbs, also an exonerated former death row inmate and member of Witness to Innocence, said he has been fighting against the death penalty since he was released from death row in 1977.

“I worry about the soul of the country,” Tibbs said. “I think we are going in the right direction, but it’s been very slow.”

Ron Keine, also an exonerated former death row inmate and member of Witness to Innocence, said the organization was created in 2005 and has been instrumental in abolishing the death penalty in Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

“We are making progress,” Keine said. “I think at a certain point the issue will begin to steamroll, and the death penalty will be abolished across the entire country.”

OSLO, Norway — Africa’s first democratically elected female president, a Liberian campaigner against rape and a woman who stood up to Yemen’s autocratic regime won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in recognition of the importance of women’s rights in the spread of global peace.

The 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) award was split three ways between Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, women’s rights activist Leymah Gbowee from the same African country and democracy activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen — the first Arab woman to win the prize.

The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee told The Associated Press that Karman’s award should be seen as a signal that both women and Islam have important roles to play in the uprisings known as the Arab Spring, the wave of anti-authoritarian revolts that have challenged rulers across the Arab world.

“The Arab Spring cannot be successful without including the women in it,” Jagland said.

He said Karman, 32, belongs to a Muslim movement with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group “which in the West is perceived as a threat to democracy.” He added that “I don’t believe that. There are many signals that that kind of movement can be an important part of the solution.”

Yemen is an extremely conservative society but a feature of the revolt there has been a prominent role for women who turned out for protests in large numbers.

Karman heads the human rights group Women Journalists without Chains. She has been a leading figure in organizing the protests that kicked off in late January.

“I am very very happy about this prize,” Karman told The Associated Press. “I give the prize to the youth of revolution in Yemen and the Yemeni people.”

Jagland told AP it was difficult to find a leader of the Arab Spring revolts, especially among the many bloggers who played a role in energizing the protests, and noted that Karman’s work started before the Arab uprisings.

“It was not easy for us to say to pick one from Egypt or pick one from Tunisia, because there were so many,” he said. “And we did not want to say that one was more important than the others.”

Karman “started her activism long before the revolution took place in Tunisia and Egypt. She has been a very courageous woman in Yemen for quite along time,” Jagland said.

No woman had won the prize since 2004, when the committee honored Wangari Maathai of Kenya, who died last month at 71.

Liberia was ravaged by civil wars for years until 2003. The drawn-out conflict that began in 1989 left about 200,000 people dead and displaced half the country’s population of 3 million.

The country is still struggling to maintain a fragile peace with the help of U.N. peacekeepers.

Sirleaf, 72, has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University and has held top regional jobs at the World Bank, the United Nations and within the Liberian government.

Sirleaf was seen as a reformer and peacemaker in Liberia when she took office in 2005. She is running for re-election this month and opponents in the presidential campaign have accused her of buying votes and using government funds to campaign. Her camp denies the charges. The election is Tuesday.

“This gives me a stronger commitment to work for reconciliation,” Sirleaf said Friday from her home in Monrovia. “Liberians should be proud.”

Jagland said the committee didn’t consider the upcoming election in Liberia when it made its decision.

“We cannot look to that domestic consideration,” he said. “We have to look at Alfred Nobel’s will, which says that the prize should go to the person that has done the most for peace in the world.”

“Who? Johnson Sirleaf? The president of Liberia? Oooh,” said Desmond Tutu, who won the peace prize in 1984 for his nonviolent campaign against white racist rule in South Africa. “She deserves it many times over. She’s brought stability to a place that was going to hell.”

U2 frontman Bono — who has figured in peace prize speculation in previous years — called Sirlaf an “extraordinary woman, a force of nature and now she has the world recognize her in this great, great, great way.”

Gbowee, who organized a group of Christian and Muslim women to challenge Liberia’s warlords, was honored for mobilizing women “across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women’s participation in elections.”

Gbowee has long campaigned for the rights of women and against rape. In 2003, she led hundreds of female protesters through Monrovia to demand swift disarmament of fighters who preyed on women throughout Liberia during 14 years of near-constant civil war.

Gbowee works in Ghana’s capital as the director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa.

“I know Leymah to be a warrior daring to enter where others would not dare,” said Gbowee’s assistant, Bertha Amanor. “So fair and straight, and a very nice person.”

Long an advocate for human rights and freedom of expression in Yemen, she has been campaigning for Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ouster since 2006 and mounted an initiative to organize Yemeni youth groups and opposition into a national council.

During a rally in Sanaa, she told the AP: “We will retain the dignity of the people and their rights by bringing down the regime.”

Published on October 10th: "Nobel Peace Prize recipients emphasize female activism"

A defected Yemeni soldier chants slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. Yemeni military officials say armed tribesmen have shot down a government warplane that was bombing their positions north of the capital, Sanaa.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen — A government warplane bombed an army position in southern Yemen, killing at least 30 soldiers involved in months of intense battles against al-Qaida members, officials said Sunday.

The strike appeared to be a mistake, but the soldiers hit were from a unit that had defected to side with protesters seeking the president’s resignation, raising questions about whether the bombing might have been intentional.

Yemen’s government and the renegade military units both consider Yemen’s al-Qaida branch an enemy. But the president’s political opponents accuse him of allowing Islamic militants to seize control of towns in southern Yemen earlier this year to spark fears in the West that without him in power, al-Qaida would take over.

The airstrike, which took place on Saturday evening in Abyan province, targeted an abandoned school that soldiers of the army’s 119th Brigade who were battling the al-Qaida fighters were sheltering in, military and medical officials said.

The school is located just east of Abyan’s provincial capital, Zinjibar, seized in May by Islamic militants taking advantage of Yemen’s political turmoil to expand their reach. In recent days, fighting in the area has been heavy; 28 soldiers and militants were killed there Saturday.

After the airstrike, militants inspecting the site shot and killed soldiers who were wounded by the bombing, the military officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Yemen’s turmoil is of deep concern to the United States and Europe in large part because of the possibility that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula will benefit from it and carve out an even bigger haven in Yemen from which to plot attacks on the West.

Thousands of protesters backed by military defectors seized a base of the elite Republican Guards on Monday, weakening the control of Yemen’s embattled president over this poor, fractured Arab nation. His forces fired on unarmed demonstrators elsewhere in the capital, killing scores, wounding hundreds and sparking international condemnation.

The protesters, joined by soldiers from the renegade 1st Armored Division, stormed the base without firing a single shot, according to witnesses and security officials. Some carried sticks and rocks. They used sandbags to erect barricades to protect their comrades from the possibility of weapons fire from inside the base, but none came and the Republican Guards eventually fled, leaving their weapons behind.

Although the base was not particularly large — the Republican Guards have bigger ones in the capital and elsewhere in Yemen — its capture buoyed the protesters’ spirits and signaled what could be the start of the collapse of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year-old regime.

“It was unbelievable,” said protester Ameen Ali Saleh of storming the base on the west side of the major al-Zubairy road, which runs through the heart of Sanaa. “We acted like it was us who had the weapons, not the soldiers.”

“Now the remainder of the regime will finally crumble,” said another demonstrator, Mohammed al-Wasaby. “Our will is more effective than weapons. The soldiers loyal to Saleh just ran away.”

As clashes continued into the night, several loud explosions rocked Sanaa, and a mortar hit the Islamic University of Al-Iman, killing one and injuring two others. The cause of the explosions was not known.

Saleh went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after a June attack on his Sanaa compound and has not returned to Yemen, but has resisted calls to resign.

A final showdown may well pit the Republican Guards, led by Saleh’s son and heir apparent Ahmed, against the soldiers of the 1st Armored Division, another elite outfit that has fought in all of Yemen’s wars over the past two decades, and their tribal allies in the capital.

The Republican Guards and the Special Forces, also led by the president’s son, have long been thought to be the regime’s last line of defense against the seven-month-old uprising.

The storming of the base capped two days of clashes in the capital that have left at least 50 people dead and nearly 1,000 injured, mostly demonstrators.

Government forces used snipers stationed on rooftops, anti-aircraft guns, rocket propelled grenades and mortars against the unarmed protesters. Witnesses and security officials described scenes of mutilated bodies, some torn apart. An infant girl, a 14-year-old boy and three rebel soldiers were among the at least 23 people killed on Monday.

“It is over,” concluded protest leader Abdul-Hadi al-Azzai. “The Ali Abdullah Saleh regime is finished. How can you negotiate while massacres are ongoing? The world is silent.”