Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 30+ year rule has depended far more on tribal acquiescence than on the flimsy votes he has occasionally held. That rule is being further threatened today after the loss of another key northern tribe, the Hashids.
The tribesmen were marching near the home of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, a former supporter of Saleh who joined the protest movement in March. The march spawned a clash with local police, which left at least six people killed and dozens of others wounded.
Ahmar’s aide said that the police were attempting to storm his compound after setting up roadblocks around the area, and that the tribesmen were responding to this “provocation.” Yemeni officials have yet to confirm their intentions.
The growing number of tribes switching sides is seriously complicating the matter for Saleh. With city dwellers increasingly rallying in massive numbers to push for his ouster, he can no longer rely on the real power blocs of the country, the heavily armed tribes, to back his US subsidized military.