Eight killed in clashes near Yemen Interior Ministry
SANAA (Reuters) - Eight people were killed in fighting on Tuesday between Yemeni government forces and armed tribesmen loyal to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh who were trying to storm the Interior Ministry in the capital Sanaa, a medical source said.
Many other people were wounded in what was some of the heaviest fighting in Sanaa since Saleh signed a deal to relinquish power last year after months of protests against his 33-year rule, the source said.
The showdown highlighted ongoing instability in Yemen five months after Saleh was replaced as president by his deputy under a plan designed to end political upheaval that severely weakened already tenuous government control over parts of the country.
Dozens of tribesmen exchanged fire with security forces early on Tuesday during their second attempt at seizing the ministry in just three days, to demand jobs in the police force.
The tribesmen said they had been promised jobs in reward for siding with Saleh during the uprising that eventually unseated him.
The ministry storming is the latest challenge for President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who is trying to restructure the armed forces and restore a semblance of normality to the impoverished country where Saleh's shadow still looms large.
Interior Minister Abdul Qader Qahtan said the attack was "not spontaneous" and aimed to drag Yemen into chaos, adding that a committee had been formed to investigate the incident.
Five people from the ministry were killed, Qahtan said. He gave no figure for the number of tribesmen who died before security forces regained control of the building.
On Sunday around 100 tribesmen occupied the ministry, but vacated it the following day after officials promised to heed their demands.
Tribal traditions are strong in Yemen, at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, where chiefs who command thousands of fighters often pledge loyalty to one political leader or another.
Many tribal fighters sided with Saleh before he was toppled by a popular uprising, part of the wave of unrest across the Arab world last year.
Tribesmen have fought alongside government troops in a U.S.-backed offensive against al Qaeda-linked militants that drove insurgents out of several towns in the south of the country last month.
Tribesmen were also behind the kidnapping of an Italian embassy security officer on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said.
A Yemeni official said the governor of the oil-producing province of Maarib, where the Carabinieri officer is being held, was mediating with the abductors for his release.
Disgruntled tribesmen often bomb oil and gas pipelines and kidnap foreigners as a way to press demands on authorities. The hostages are usually freed unharmed.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Rania El Gamal and Isabel Coles; Editing by Sami Aboudi, Robin Pomeroy and Peter Graff)
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