`Saleh using al Qaeda threat to stay in power`

Saleh is also using US alliance in fight against terror as a card for power.

Updated: Mar 27, 2011, 23:35 PM IST

Cairo/Sana`a: A top Yemeni security official, who has pledged his support for the pro-democracy protesters, Sunday said President Ali Abdullah Saleh was using the threat of al Qaeda as an excuse to stay in power.

"I actually fear that Saleh is using it as a card in order to hang on to power and the use of violence against his own people," General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar told DPA. He is the top military commander in north-western Yemen.

Seven soldiers were killed in an attack by al Qaeda in Mareb province, the Yemen Post reported Sunday, citing security forces.

The attack comes after seven suspected al Qaeda members were killed Saturday during an attack on a military post in southern Abyan province.

Al-Ahmar also accused Saleh of using his alliance with the US in the fight against terrorism as another card to hold on to power.

On Saturday, the Washington Post cited US intelligence agencies as saying that an al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen may be close to launching a terrorist attack.

"Saleh has largely contributed to the presence of terrorism in Yemen as he played with it as a political tactic," said al-Ahmar.

Al-Ahmar, who belongs to Saleh`s Hashed tribe, said he would no longer serve the president and would join those calling for his ouster.

His defection, along with that of several other officials and diplomats, follows the killing of more than 50 people in an assault on protesters gathered in Taghyeer, or Change Square, in Sana`a.

Saleh met with al-Ahmar Friday but they failed to reach any agreement, media reports said. "The expansion of opposition and the revolution came as a result of Saleh`s suppressive methods and abuse of protesters," he said.

The demonstrators were unmoved by Saleh`s statement Friday that he would step aside if power is transferred to a "safe pair of hands".

Saleh has been in power since 1978. The demonstrations began in Yemen in February, following popular uprisings against long-time rulers in Tunisia and Egypt.