Fighting In Yemen Rages, As Obama Dispatches Top Aide To Region

Jun 2, 2011

The videos emerging from the Yemeni capital of Sanaa today paint a grim picture. The Guardian reports that at least 135 people have been killed in the last 10 days and that today president Ali Abdullah Saleh's forces "were deploying heavy weapons at the entrance to the capital city to prevent the advance of rebels loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, chief of the Hashid tribal federation, the country's largest."

NPR's senior social media strategist Andy Carvin pointed us to a video posted by la7jpress on YouTube. The video shows a nighttime view of Sanaa, today, and you hear a relentless barrage of artillery fire followed by what sounds like a shell explosion:

Andy says la7jpress is a group of loosely organized citizen journalists who have been putting out reliable reports out of Yemen.

What we know for sure is that the situation in Yemen has escalated. Yesterday, The Guardian reports, Arab embassasies evacuated their staff and the paper said diplomats described the situation as "worse than Libya."

U.S. envoy John Brennan travelled to the region to talk to Saudi Arabia, today, and the United Arab Emirates, tomorrow, about options in Yemen, the White House said in a statement.

Reuters reports Brennan is in the region to add pressure on Saleh to finally sign a Gulf Cooperation Council deal that would have him leave power but with immunity from prosecution. Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, has backed out of signing the deal on several occasions.

Reuters sets today's scene in Sanaa:

Residents said dozens were likely to have been killed in the most recent round of fighting, mostly for control of government buildings and near the compounds of Saleh's tribal foes.

Civilians have been fleeing the city in the thousands, hurriedly packing possessions into their cars.

"It felt as if the artillery shells were flying next to my head ... My wife, my daughter were screaming. It was horrible," resident Sadeq al-Lahbe said before leaving.

"There is no electricity, no water and violent strikes shaking the house. Is this life?"

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