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Yemen goes to polls today

Nearly 90,000 police and troops have been deployed across Yemen for its first seriously contested presidential elections.

india Updated: Sep 18, 2006 11:30 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Nearly 90,000 police and troops are to deploy across Yemen on Wednesday as Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland goes to the polls for its first seriously contested presidential elections.

In an impoverished country, which has seen deadly Al-Qaeda attacks on the American destroyer USS Cole and the French oil tanker Limburg, security remains key even as Washington hails a new milestone in the democratisation of the Middle East.

With scores already dead during the election campaign and four French hostages still in the hands of tribal kidnappers in the south, the authorities are taking no chances.

On Saturday, the government announced it had detained four suspected Al-Qaeda sympathisers in the capital.

The previous day the authorities said they had foiled a plot against oil facilities in the eastern regions of Maarib and Hadramawt, the scene of US special operations in the war against terror virtually since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The electoral commission's security chief Seif al-Sharaabi said a total of 89,000 security personnel would be deployed in the country's 5,620 polling stations on election day.

"A reserve force will be ready to intervene at a moment's notice, particularly in provinces where tensions exist," said al-Sharaabi.

But their task will be a difficult one in a country where the central government's writ extends with difficulty to the tribalised countryside and where private gun ownership is one of the highest in the world with some 60 million firearms for a population of 20 million.

First Published: Sep 18, 2006 11:30 IST