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Tens of thousands demonstrate for ouster of Yemen's president

The protests led by opposition members and youth activists are a significant expansion of the regional unrest sparked by the Tunisian uprising.

January 27, 2011|By Jeffrey Fleishman | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • Demonstrators inspired by the Tunisian uprising shout slogans at an anti-government rally in Sana, Yemen.
Demonstrators inspired by the Tunisian uprising shout slogans at an anti-government… (Khaled Abdullah / Reuters )

Reporting from Cairo — The unrest in the Middle East spread to impoverished Yemen on Thursday as tens of thousands of protesters angry over unemployment and political oppression marched through the capital against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Instability in Yemen is a major concern for Washington, which has been working with Saleh's government to defeat an entrenched Al Qaeda network that claimed responsibility for last year's attempted bombings of planes over U.S. airspace. Officials fear anarchy in the country would give militants a strategic base in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.

Saleh, whose widely corrupt government has ruled Yemen for 32 years, has been unable to stem unemployment and improve education, healthcare and sanitation in the region's poorest nation. Anger has been steadily growing against him, especially from young activists and tribal leaders. He also faces an intensifying secessionist movement in the south.

"We will not accept anything less than the president leaving," independent parliamentarian Ahmed Hashid told the Associated Press.

Some protesters joked that Ali should "go the way" of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, who fled his country after weeks of mounting protests.

"I helped the students in organizing sit-ins after the Tunisian revolt," Tawakul Karman, an activist recently released from jail after organizing demonstrations, told The Times. "There have been daily protests in Sana. I was arrested for a day because of the demonstrations and let out yesterday. The student protests will for sure continue."

The protests took place on a day of rival rallies between opposition parties and government loyalists. Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee reported on his website:

"No violence or riot cases were noticed, but security measures were exceptional in the city as anti-riot forces were deployed in almost all the places close to the rallies," he said. "However, these rallies are not new, not strange. Both sides have been holding similar rallies over the last two weeks in the provinces outside Sana."

jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

Alexandra Sandels in the Times' bureau in Beirut contributed to this report.

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