British and American ambassadors seized

Several hundred gunmen loyal to Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, held the British and American ambassadors captive in a siege lasting more than two hours yesterday.

British ambassador Jonathan Wilks and his US counterpart Gerald Feierstein were held along with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Abdul Latif al-Zayani and other European diplomats by gunmen wielding AK-47s and placards of President Saleh. They had been working together on a GCC brokered power transfer deal that President Saleh has pledged to sign.



The gunmen blocked all traffic along the major road where both the Saudi and the UAE Embassies in Sana’a are located. “We will not allow foreign states to demand things of our president,” said one of the gunmen, carrying an AK-47. Several helicopters circled above the embassy during the siege and, according to local press, the besieged diplomats were air-lifted out of the embassy.



In a speech before a military parade on Saturday, 21 May, President Saleh derided the GCC power transfer deal as a “Coup against the constitutional legitimacy and came under western efforts to create a weak regime in the region.”



Earlier yesterday morning, armed Saleh loyalists began taking control of busy intersections throughout the Yemeni Capital of Sana’a, blocking roads in an attempt to keep foreign diplomats from reaching the presidential palace and negotiating the power transfer.



Major roads throughout Sana’a continued to be blocked off by gunmen using crude, makeshift roadblocks adorned with pro-Saleh paraphernalia.



Eye witnesses reported that these gunmen approached cars stopped in traffic, brandishing handguns and assault rifles, demanding that drivers swear allegiance to Ali Abdullah Saleh



Yemen’s political opposition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) signed the power transfer deal last night in the presence of GCC diplomats in the home of Mohamed Salem Basandwa, chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the National dialogue.



President Saleh condemned the JMP’s signing of the agreement as well as negotiations and deals that take place “behind closed doors” in a statement earlier yesterday.



According to the Associated Press, a Gulf official said the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council mediating Yemen's power transfer would drop the U.S.-backed deal and withdraw from mediation unless Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed it by the end of the day.



Yemen has been witness to over three months of permanent anti-government protests across the country. Protesters have rejected the GCC brokered power transfer deal out rightly, stating that Saleh and his family must stand trial for what they deem to be crimes against humanity committed against the Yemeni people.





The GCC deal included an immunity clause for Saleh and all members of his family.



“We reject this deal. That’s it. We won’t leave the streets regardless of its outcome. This has been our position from the beginning,” said protest leader Adel al-Surabi.



Plainclothes Saleh loyalists, known as “thugs” among Yemen’s protesters, have been involved in attacks against demonstrations and sit-ins which have killed more than 150 anti-government protesters.



Protesters also claim that these men are being paid by the Saleh regime - however these reports are unconfirmed.



“Saleh thinks this is a one man show,” said Jamal Nasser, spokesman for the Coordinating Council for the Youth Revolution of Change, Yemen’s largest protest organization. “As we can see, this government now functions as a mob,” he added.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue