General loyal to Saleh killed

Defiant protesters reject Yemeni president call for fresh elections

Women take part in a march demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa on Monday. APGeneral Abdullah al-Kulaibi, head of the 63rd brigade of the elite Republican Guard unit, was killed in the attack by tribesman opposed to Saleh’s rule in the strategic town of Nihm, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Four of the attackers were killed during the attack on the military base, about 60 kilometres from the Yemeni capital, it said. Yemen state television confirmed the assault on the military base but made no mention of hostages. It also claimed the attackers were gunmen from the Yemeni Islamist Islah (Reform) party.

A tribal source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that gunmen from tribes who are opposed to Saleh took brief control of parts of the base, kidnapped 30 Yemeni soldiers, and then escaped into nearby hills. He added that two of the four tribesmen killed overnight died during what he described as the “constant shelling” of Nihm by the military in retaliation for the assault. Nihm is one of several villages that collectively make up the strategic northern gateway into Sanaa and is site of at least five Republican Guard bases.

The elite unit has so far prevented dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who now controls part of the capital, from calling in reinforcements from Yemen’s northern provinces where he has a strong following. The tribesmen who carried out the assault on the military base late on Sunday are allied with General Ahmar and have been battling government troops for control of the area.

Protesters reject polls

Meanwhile, anti-regime activists have rejected Saleh’s call for polls and demanded his immediate departure.

Saleh on Sunday night called for elections while at the same time said he was committed to a Gulf power-transfer deal which would see him step down immediately, triggered uproar at Change Square, epicentre of anti-regime protests which have rocked Yemen since late January. “The youth will not accept,” said Walid al-Amari, a leading member of the youth protest committee, addressing demonstrators at the square near the capital’s main university.

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