Factory Explosion Highlights Instability in Yemen

Talks for Yemen's president to step down have reportedly stalled

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An explosion at a bullet and weapons factory in southern Yemen has killed at least 110 people, Reuters reports, a day after Islamist militants seized control of the plant and the surrounding area of Jaar. The blast occurred after residents broke into the factory to steal weapons after the militants left. A cigarette may have ignited the explosion, Reuters says.
Yemen--which is already facing a secessionist movement in the south, Shiite opposition in the north, a growing al Qaeda presence, high unemployment, and dwindling oil revenues--has yet to resolve the political impasse created by the recent pro-democracy uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Security in the country has been deteriorating as a result of the unrest.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Saleh has pulled back from a deal calling for him to step down immediately while his relatives retain control over the country's top counterterrorism units (Reuters says the relatives would step down as part of the deal). The negotiations between Saleh, rival general Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, and other political leaders--mediated by the U.S. and British ambassadors--stalled over the weekend when Salah recoiled at the opposition demand that he go into exile after he resigns, the Journal notes, and the bad blood between Saleh and Ahmar--who has agreed to resign if Saleh does--mounted. On Sunday, Saleh vowed to offer no more concessions and reiterated his warning that Yemen was sliding into civil war.

But a resolution to the conflict may still be possible, Reuters adds. The news agency points to the fact that the ruling party's governing committee has recommended establishing a new government to draft a constitution for a parliamentary system.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.