Bomb wounds 22 at anti-US protest in Yemen
Published Friday, March 2, 2012
A bomb blast hit an anti-US protest in northern Yemen on Friday, injuring at least 22 people, Houthi rebels said.
In a statement, the leader of the Houthi movement – Shia rebels that Yemen's military tried to crush in campaigns in 2004-2009 – said the bombing took place in the province of Saada, on Yemen's northwestern border with Saudi Arabia.
It did not say who it believed carried out the attack.
The region has seen bouts of fighting in recent months between the Houthis and Saudi-backed Salafis – followers of an extreme brand of Sunni Islam. The Houthis have accused Riyadh of arming their foes.
The conflict with the Houthis is one of several facing Yemen's new president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, as he tries to implement a power transfer backed by Riyadh and Washington.
The transition plan is aimed at averting civil war among an army divided between foes and allies of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Mass protests against him last year were coupled with fighting between pro and anti Saleh units.
Saleh eventually became the fourth veteran Arab leader unseated by "Arab Spring" protests, although full democratic transition remains uncertain as opponents fear Saleh's cronies are attempting to retain power.
A key element of the Gulf plan that removed Saleh is restructuring Yemen's military, which the United States wants as a reliable resource in its campaign against al-Qaeda in Yemen, a group Washington fears could thrive amid Yemen's political turmoil.
John Brennan, the US "counter-terrorism" chief, has called for a united Yemeni army to carry out that campaign, and the Houthi leader Abdelmalek al-Houthi said the protest was against similar remarks made recently by the US ambassador in Sanaa.
The transition plan calls for Hadi and an interim government made up of Saleh's party and opposition blocs to lead Yemen to elections and write a new constitution within two years.
The plan did not include the Houthis, who have held talks with the UN envoy attempting to implement the deal aimed at bringing them into a political process.
Washington – key backers of Saleh – angered pro-democracy protesters and opposition activists when the US accepted the former dictator into the country for medical treatment.
Protesters want Saleh tried for crimes committed during Yemen's uprising, with a government crackdown allegedly killing hundreds of civilians.
The US has refused to entertain the idea, raising suspicion that its involvement in Yemen's transitional process is not inclined to bring democracy, but only empower US-backed figures that will protect American interests in the country.