Key tribes abandon Yemen president

Sanaa, Feb 26 (AFP) Pressure on Ali Abdullah Saleh toresign today intensified when the leaders of two of Yemen''smost important tribes abandoned the president and joined theanti-regime movement.

The news came as an official denied reports thatpolice killed four people yesterday in an assault on ananti-government protest in Aden, blaming a southernsecessionist group for the attack.

Powerful tribal leaders, including those of the Hashidand Baqil, pledged to join protests against Saleh at agathering north of the capital, a tribal source said.

"I have announced my resignation from the GeneralPeople''s Congress in protest at the repression of peacefuldemonstrators in Sanaa, Taez and Aden," Hashid tribal chiefSheikh Hussein bin Abdullah al-Ahmar was quoted as saying, inreference to the ruling party.

The Hashids are considered Yemen''s most powerfultribal confederation and include nine clans, among them theSanhan, long a bulwark of Saleh''s regime.

The announcement was warmly received by a large crowdof tribesmen, including members of Yemen''s second largesttribe, the Baqil, who gathered for the meeting, according tothe tribal source.

The two tribes announced they would support thepopular uprising against Saleh, who has refused to step downafter three decades in power, to chants of "the people wantthe fall of the regime!"According to an AFP tally based on reports by medicsand witnesses, at least 19 people have now been killed inalmost daily clashes at anti-regime protests since theyerupted on February 16.

Medics said security forces used live ammunition on ademonstration in the southern city of Aden, which has seen theworst violence, bringing the death toll to four on Saturdayfrom just one rally with 40 others wounded.

They identified three of the dead as demonstratorMohammed Ahmed Saleh, 17; Hael Walid, 21, and Salem Bashaj, anemployee at the state electricity company who was shot outsidehis home.

A hospital official in Aden confirmed to AFP that afourth protester had died of wounds sustained in the gunfire.

A Yemeni official denied today reports of a policeraid.

"An armed separatist group loyal to the so-calledHirak (Southern Movement) randomly opened fire with automaticweaponry on buildings in the district of Maalla, targetingsecurity forces and citizens," the defence ministry'' website quoted the security official as saying.(AFP)

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