Yemeni security forces opened fire yesterday on anti-government protesters marching through the capital killing at least four people, a medical official said.
Mohammed al-Qubati, the director of a field hospital at Sanaa’s main protest site dubbed “Change Square”, also said at least 37 people were wounded in the violence. Witnesses said snipers on rooftops opened fire on the crowd of tens of thousands of protesters, marching through the streets to call for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Loyalist forces of the Republican Guard, a unit led by Saleh’s son Ahmed, also lobbed tear gas at the demonstrators.
Witnesses said that the Republican Guard clashed near Change Square with the anti-government troops of renegade army general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who defected and joined protests months ago. Sunday’s violence comes a day after security forces fired on a massive rally of some 300,000 people in Sanaa, killing at least 12 protesters and wounding some 300. “No immunity, no guarantees. Saleh and his aides must be prosecuted,” chanted protesters in Sanaa. President Saleh clings to power in the face of more than nine months of massive street protests, inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Saleh, who has been in office for 33 years, has staunchly refused to quit power. Violence in Yemen, has surged over the last two days, while al-Qaeda insurgents blew up a gas pipeline, halting the impoverished nation’s gas exports. Yemenis have been waiting for U.N. Security Council members to agree to a resolution expected to urge Saleh to hand over power under a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) peace plan. Saleh says he is ready to step down but wants to ensure that control of the country is transferred to safe hands. Britain has been drafting a resolution on Yemen in consultation with France and the U.S. and intends to circulate it to the full 15-nation Security Council shortly after a closed-door meeting on Tuesday. Russia and China, which joined forces to veto a European-sponsored resolution against Syria earlier this month, are not expected to block the resolution on Saleh, diplomats in New York have said.
Yemeni officials have said the attack on the pipeline on Saturday was in retaliation for the killing of the head of the media department of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in an air raid on militant outposts in Yemen last week. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen, fear al Qaeda is trying to take advantage of the country’s political vacuum to expand its territory in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, near a strategic shipping strait used by tankers carrying some 3 million barrels of oil a day.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters by the HDN news staff