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Prospect of reconciliation in Yemen marred by violence

Warring current and former leaders attend Eid prayers together on Monday in historic meeting, amid ongoing attacks against military
President Hadi and former President Saleh sit side by side during Eid prayers in Sanaa (Twitter / @KhaledHammadi)

Hopes were raised among many of a historic reconciliation on Monday between former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and current incumbent Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, long-time enemies who have been locked in a bitter power struggle.

The two men, as well as Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, attended prayers marking Eid al-Fitr at a mosque built by former President Abdullah Saleh, also called al-Saleh mosque.

The meeting was billed as the first time Saleh had met Hadi since the latter took office.

The prayers were broadcast on a number of Yemeni television channels, with Yemeni news site Barakish hailing it as “evidence of the reconciliation announced by President Hadi” on 25 July.

Hadi had called on Friday for a national reconciliation including all parties “in order to get past all the disturbances, problems and social chaos.”

However, not all commentators were optimistic that the meeting represented an end to the enmity, which in June 2014 saw tensions between the rivals explode as members of Hadi’s Presidential Guard storm al-Yemen al-Yawm, a television station affiliated to Abdullah Saleh.

There ensued a five-day standoff, in which Hadi’s troops surrounded al-Saleh mosque, the capital’s biggest mosque which was built by Abdullah Saleh and is used as a platform for his religious and political announcements.

Translation: What happened in al-Saleh mosque…ludicrous

Translation: The conflict between President Hadi and his successor Saleh over power ruined the purity of life, and even made it impossible to enjoy Eid.

Some Yemenis also remain concerned that, though political reconciliation may be on the cards, the army does not have the capacity to defeat its militant foes, despite years of restructuring attempts since 2012.

Haykal Bafana, a lawyer based in the capital Sanaa, said on Sunday that “half the roll-call in any brigade is pure fiction”, referring to rumours that corrupt army officers take a portion of their soldiers’ pay in return for turning a blind eye to frequent troop absence.

“Loyalties remain fractured…with blatantly obvious al-Qaeda supporters in senior leadership positions… Yemen’s army can’t defeat al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP].”

Assassinations and attacks continue

Throughout the moves towards political reconciliation in the capital, deadly attacks on security forces have been continuing.

Two soldiers and 10 suspected militants were killed on Sunday in attempted car bomb attacks in the southern province of Abyan, scene of much of the fighting in a protracted army crackdown on fighters affiliated with AQAP.

According to Yemeni military sources, the car bombs exploded before reaching their target.

Tuesday saw two assassination attempts, one of which failed, against high-profile military personnel in the south of the country.

Militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the vehicle of a brigade commander in al-Dalii province, misfiring and injuring six other soldiers.

Later in the day, a colonel was killed by gunfire as he drove through Lawlar District.

No group has as yet claimed responsibility for the assassination of Abdullah al-Maaraji, who commanded the infantry brigade that sought to crack down on al-Qaeda in Lawlar District in 2012.

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