Yemeni security officials say Islamic militants have seized parts of a southern town and carried out a deadly ambush on Yemeni soldiers in a central province, as Yemen’s weakened president tries to resolve an escalating political crisis.
The officials say the Islamist fighters were in control of parts of the town of Jaar in southern Yemen’s Abyan province on Sunday, following a battle that forced government troops to retreat from the area.
Elsewhere, suspected al-Qaida militants attacked soldiers in the central Yemen’s Marib province on Sunday, killing at least six Yemeni troops and wounding four others. Officials say the assailants also seized a Yemeni military vehicle in the incident.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has faced weeks of daily mass protests demanding that he step down after 32 years in power. His security forces have engaged in deadly confrontations with opposition activists while also fighting al-Qaida militants who have used lawless parts of Yemen to plot and carry out attacks on the government and the West.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya broadcast television Sunday, Mr. Saleh said he is prepared to step down “within a few hours” if his opponents guarantee him what he calls a “dignified departure.” But, he vowed to remain in charge of his ruling party even if he stands down and insisted on staying in Yemen, saying he is “not looking for a home in Jeddah or Paris.”
Mr. Saleh also warned that Yemen is a “time bomb” that could slide into a “civil war like Somalia,” across the Gulf of Aden.
Yemeni opposition groups have rejected previous offers by Mr. Saleh to stand down before the end of his term in 2013, insisting on his immediate departure.