Yemeni tribesmen shoot down government warplane

AP News
Posted: Sep 28, 2011 2:47 PM
Yemeni tribesmen shoot down government warplane

Tribesmen shot down a Yemeni government warplane that was bombing their positions north of the capital Sanaa Wednesday, military officials said.

A Defense Ministry official confirmed the downing of the plane in the district of Arhab, north of Sanaa, but gave no further details. The official told the state news agency that anti-government groups were behind the shooting.

Tribesmen overran a military base belonging to Yemen's elite Republican Guards earlier this week in the area where the aircraft was shot down.

The capture of the base followed weeks of intermittent fighting between the tribesmen and government forces. The tribesmen are believed to have seized a large number of weapons from the base, including anti-aircraft guns.

A tribesman said the pilot of the warplane is now in the custody of the tribe. He was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Yemen has been rocked by near daily mass protests demanding the ouster of longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh, plunging the impoverished nation into deep political crisis. Armed tribesmen and defecting military units who are supporting the protesters have joined the fray, turning the upheaval into an armed confrontation that is looking increasingly like a civil war.

The confrontation escalated just before Saleh returned to Yemen last week after he spent months in Saudi Arabia recovering from injuries sustained in June attack on his presidential compound.

Saleh has repeatedly rejected a U.S.-backed regional initiative that calls for him to step down and hand over power to his vice president to ease the crisis. Since his return on Friday, he has taken no clear decision to indicate he has changed his mind, and the violence has picked up. The U.N. Security Council urged all sides in Yemen to reject violence and take urgent steps toward a political transition, offering its support for the regional plan.

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In signs of Saleh's growing isolation, ambassadors of the member states of the Security Council and neighboring countries met with his vice president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and security officials. A military official who is familiar with the meeting said Hadi briefed the diplomats on the tense security situation in the capital and urged them to pressure the warring sides to roll back their security deployment in different Sanaa neighborhoods.