Violence hits Yemen on eve of presidential vote

Last Updated: Monday, February 20, 2012 - 23:13

Sanaa: Gunmen attacked two polling stations
and killed one soldier in Yemen`s restive south Monday, one day
before the country is to go to the polls to rubber stamp its
vice president as the new head of state.

Also today, al Qaeda linked militants killed two soldiers
outside of a city controlled by jihadists.

The attacks underline the security vacuum in the Arabian
peninsula`s poorest country after a one-year popular uprising
seeking to oust longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Under a US-backed deal brokered by Yemen`s Gulf Arab
neighbours, Saleh`s deputy, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is to
become president after a vote tomorrow in which he is the only
candidate.

Posters and huge banners brandishing Hadi`s photo and
urging Yemenis to vote have appeared throughout the capital
Sanaa as the vote approaches. Thousands of people attended an
electoral rally earlier today in support of the vice
president.

Hadi, a low-profile figure who has served under Saleh for
years, did not attend the event and has rarely addressed the
public.

Still, many Yemenis who originally opposed the deal that
will bring Hadi to power now support the move merely because
it will officially end Saleh`s 33-year rule.

Security has collapsed across Yemen during the uprising,
with security forces regularly using lethal force against
protesters and clashing with various armed groups.

The US and Saudi Arabia have struggled to ensure a smooth
transition in hopes that Yemen will continue to cooperate in
fighting the country`s al Qaeda branch, which has carried out
attacks in the US.

Two Yemeni soldiers were killed in a gunfight with
al-Qaeda militants near the city of Zinjibar, security
officials said. Militants seized control of the town last
year, exploiting the country`s unrest.

Other violence appeared motivated by opposition to the
vote, the officials said.

In the central town of Daleh, one soldier was killed in a
shootout with gunmen associated with a group calling for
independence for Yemen`s south.

In the port city of Aden, gunmen fired a rocket-propelled
grenade at a polling station, then fled. No one was hurt, and
police are searching for suspects.

And in the southern province of Shabwa, armed men raided a
polling station in the town of Ataq, expelling the election
workers and occupying the building, officials said.

PTI



First Published: Monday, February 20, 2012 - 14:56

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