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Libya and Yemen updates

Yemen was off the front page when I put it at the top of my stack a few days ago, but now it’s all over the front pages. The armed tribesmen opposed to President Saleh are fighting the government in the capital, Sana (Sanaa), and fears of an all-out civil war are increasing. Video posted on an NPR blog gives a graphic sense of the level of violence, with constant gunfire and artillery in the capital at night.

The Yemen Post reports “huge explosions” in the city last night, and the airport closed on Thursday, stranding hundreds of passengers. Similar heavy fighting continues in Zinjibar for a third day. As Juan Cole notes in his blog today, Yemen matters to the West not only because of al Qaeda but because of its strategic location overlooking the Suez Canal route (the other side of the lane being infested with Somali pirates) and its proximity to neighboring Saudi Arabia, the lynchpin of the world oil economy.

In Libya, NATO continues to blast away at Gaddafi’s military infrastructure in Tripoli and between there and the rebel-held Misrata (Misurata). Just a week ago, as Dan Drezner noted in his blog, Libya was pressing for a cease-fire and some observers thought NATO might find this attractive. The idea has come and gone, along with would-be mediator Jacob Zuma.

Yemen Update

On Tuesday, the cease-fire in the capital Sanaa broke down. Tribesmen opposed to President Saleh have seized control of a number of government buildings, and residents fear an all-out civil war. Meanwhile demonstrators inTaiz were shot again by government forces, with a number killed. The city of Zinjibar remains in the hands of al Qaeda-linked Islamic militants. See yesterday’s post below for more.