Three Dead, Four Wounded as Bandit Family Battle Police in Sanaa
Three people were killed and four wounded in a battle between security forces and a family of bandits that raged for several hours in the heart of the Yemeni capital on Monday, interior ministry officials said.
Among the dead were a policeman and bandit leader Yahia al-Muharres, a retired police colonel wanted along with his 22 sons for a series of robberies and murder.
One of Muharres' three wives was also killed.
Rocket-propelled grenades and sub-machine-guns were used as the police battled the bandits holed up in a three-storey building of the residential quarter of Al-Ziraa after a car chase involving dozens of vehicles, witnesses said.
Police surrounded the house after the heavily-armed gang killed a car driver and stole his vehicle. Al-Ziraa, which was sealed off, turned into a "firing range", said one witness.
The shootout began just after midnight and continued throughout the morning until most of the gang were arrested, police said.
The interior ministry said the last two members of the gang finally surrendered after having held hostage a Sudanese family living in the same building.
Clashes between security forces and armed elements, including tribesmen, are common in Yemen, where 60 million firearms are estimated to be in civilian hands, or three guns per person.
Even urban dwellers are heavily armed, despite government efforts to rid the towns of illegal weapons.
Kidnappings are also a common practice in Yemen by tribesmen seeking concessions from the government.
A young German hostage in Yemen appealed Sunday for the Sanaa government to bow to the demands of his tribal kidnappers, complaining he was being held in "terrible" conditions.
Carl Christian Hoernecke urged the German embassy to persuade the government to free a number of tribesmen from prison as demanded by the kidnappers.
More than 200 foreigners, mostly Western nationals, have been abducted by Yemen's unruly tribes in the past decade – SANAA (AFP)
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