Anti-Government Protests In Yemen Get More Violent Yemen's president has repeatedly backed away from signing a deal to step aside. Iona Craig of the London Times has witnessed the clashes between government loyalists and a tribal faction that sides with protesters demanding President Saleh step down. She talks to Renee Montagne about what she's seen.
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Anti-Government Protests In Yemen Get More Violent

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Anti-Government Protests In Yemen Get More Violent

Anti-Government Protests In Yemen Get More Violent

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

To better understand what's happening there, we called Iona Craig of the London Times, who is in Sana'a, the capital. And as you move about the city, what are you seeing?

IONA CRAIG: Well, the fighting that you're talking about is mainly confined to a northern district in Sana'a, where the home of Sadek al- Ahmar is. He's a tribal leader of the Hashid tribe, which is Yemen's most powerful tribe and also the tribe of the president. But those heavy clashes between Mr. al-Ahmar's men and government troops have been ongoing now for - we're into the third day today and they've involved heavy shelling and explosions can be heard right across the city from that fighting.

MONTAGNE: OK. So this is president's own tribe, which has effectively turned against him. And after many weeks of pretty much peaceful protests, these protests have turned violent. So what is the importance of this moment?

CRAIG: So certainly the longer this goes on, the greater the concerns that it could drag in more tribes and more men into this conflict and spread beyond that northern district of Hassiba(ph). There have been attempts at tribal mediation, which went rather wrong. Yesterday when the house of Sadek al-Ahmar, where the mediation was going on, came under attack and mortar fire left several of those tribal mediators - and they were prominent sheiks - injured, and reports that even that some of them have been killed.

MONTAGNE: What is at stake in the region if this power struggle continues?

CRAIG: This leaves the prospect of much unrest across Yemen. And then, of course, as far as the West is concerned, then raises the threat of al-Qaida making gains during that vacuum when the army is not present and the security forces have departed.

MONTAGNE: Right. Al-Qaida in Yemen, of course, an active branch of al-Qaida and one of great concern to the U.S. As we've just heard in an earlier story, Egypt has announced that former President Hosni Mubarak will stand trial for the deaths of protestors. Do you think that might make President Saleh more willing to fight to stay in power to avoid something similar?

CRAIG: So I'm sure that is a concern of his, but this was one of the main points of the deal that he wanted secured, is that he would be immune from that type of prosecution.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

CRAIG: No problem. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Iona Craig of the London Times speaking to us from Sana'a, the capital of Yemen.

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