Yemen reinforces forces around capital amid fear of protest escalation

SANAA, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) — The Yemeni Interior Ministry said in a statement it had reinforced security forces around the capital Sanaa and blocked byways as precaution measures to prevent smuggling weapons into major cities.

The ministry said on its website it directed security agencies to beef up inspection campaigns for wanted suspects or firearms at security checkpoints in the main highways leading to the capital.

The ministry’s measures came following reports that opposition parties are preparing to organize an anti-government demonstration of million protesters in Sanaa on Feb. 3 and called for their members and armed tribal supporters outside the capital to join the march, an official of the ministry told Xinhua.

Inspired by the anti-government protests in Egypt, around 15, 000 Yemeni protesters took to streets in Sanaa last Thursday, calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Since the beginning of this year, tensions escalated between the opposition and ruling party after parliamentary members of the latter “unilaterally” approved constitutional amendments on Jan. 1, which could make Yemen’s leader Saleh the country’s president for life.

The opposition coalition then boycotted parliamentary sessions and vowed not to take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections, calling for protest against the ruling party’s “unilaterally action.”

Saleh announced last week on state TV that he would step down after his second presidential term expires in 2013.

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