Yemeni, US Forces Crack Down on Security in Aden
Yemeni and US security forces have turned the port city of Aden into a fortress amid tense US investigations into the blast on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors.
Checkpoints have been set up throughout the city and around hotels since the explosion which wounded more than 30 on Thursday.
Heavily armed Yemeni troops in orange fatigues have besieged the main international watering-hole.
The top three floors of Aden's Moevenpick Hotel have been commandeered by the US Navy to house incoming reaction and investigation teams, as well as the US ambassador to Sanaa, Barbara Bodine.
One western diplomat said Aden had been transformed into a "fortress", virtually overnight.
Under strict security, Bodine met Saturday with a high-ranking Yemeni delegation that included the chief of staff of Yemen's army General Abdullah Ali Elaiwa and Aden's governor Taha Ghanem.
Television crews have been prevented from filming outside the hotel, and two Yemeni taxi-drivers who escorted journalists around the city Friday remain in police custody, according to local sources.
"The port and airport have been made very secure," said Bashraheel Hisham Bashraheel, a publisher of Yemeni daily newspaper Al-Ayyam.
But Aden itself was calm Saturday despite the appearance of soldiers and armed jeeps on every roundabout.
Ramshackle one-storey blue-and-white teahouses downtown continued to do a roaring trade.
"Aden is normally one laid-back place, and we Adenis think of it as a very safe place to live. It is very unusual to see soldiers in the street and at checkpoints throughout the city," Bashraheel told AFP.
The markets in the old city called Crater, so called because it is built among the lava rocks of the volcano that towers 600 meters (1,900 feet) over the deep natural port, were abuzz.
And the rubbish-strewn public beaches beyond the port area were also packed, with Yemeni youngsters playing football and swimming, taking advantage of "Aden Day", a public holiday commemorating the "revolution" that saw the end of British rule in the seaport after 123 years.
It has however gone through dramatic times since independence in 1967 saw the birth of the Marxist republic of South Yemen, repeated coups, civil war, unification with the north in 1990 and a failed secession bid in 1994.
Recent years have brought a return to normalcy, despite kidnappings and bombings in surrounding regions, as the economic struggle to defeat grinding poverty took center stage.
But for a city that prides itself on the easy mix of people that live there, including large numbers of Chinese, Indians and east Africans, the presence of heavily-armed US troops grated somewhat.
"As Aden is not a liberty stop for US soldiers, it is unusual to see US forces here," Bashraheel said.
He said local people had cooperated well with foreign representatives from the US-sponsored demining centre based in the city.
Normally, Yemeni troops only appear in the town when President Abdullah Ali Saleh makes a visit.
"Diplomats like this place because it is not like (Yemen's capital) Sanaa, which is a social and security nightmare," the western diplomat said, supping a cold beer before moving into a restaurant for a pork buffet-barbecue – (AFP)
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