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Authorities crack down on protesters in Yemen, Algeria, Syria

Thugs attack with sticks, knives and guns, and police use tear gas and batons to break up demonstrations across the region.

March 17, 2011|By Garrett Therolf, Los Angeles Times
  • A protester shouts slogans in Sana, Yemen, where demonstrators are staging a huge sit-in.
A protester shouts slogans in Sana, Yemen, where demonstrators are staging… (Yahya Arhab, European Pressphoto…)

Reporting from Cairo — Unrest continued throughout the Arab world Wednesday as protesters calling for government reform were met with harsh tactics in Yemen, Algeria and Syria.

In Yemen, hundreds of protesters suffered injuries when pro-government thugs attacked them with sticks, knives and guns, witnesses said.

The violence occurred in the western port city of Hudaydah when 4,000 demonstrators calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh were met by thousands of armed government supporters. Security forces used tear gas to end the melee.

Yemen has undergone more than a month of daily clashes between security forces and protesters demanding an end to corruption, poverty and political oppression, resulting in the deaths of more than 40 demonstrators.

In the capital, hundreds of tribesmen have joined a huge sit-in among demonstrators near Sana University, a potentially significant development in a nation where tribal allegiances are often stronger than those to political parties or even the military.

The tribesmen "are here to prevent the thugs from attacking us; if any of their ranks are killed, their sheiks will pursue a vendetta, and the authorities know this," said Ahmed Hakimi, a 31-year-old teacher at the sit-in.

In Algiers, police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of 150 protesters, some of whom threw Molotov cocktails and stones, Reuters reported.

The protesters had blocked a road east of the capital as they demanded better housing.

Algeria has seen poverty increase in recent years and faces a particularly high unemployment rate among its youth. The government, riddled by corruption, has been slow to respond to the challenges, but demonstrations calling for reform have so far remained scattered and unorganized.

In Syria, President Bashar Assad's security forces armed with batons dispersed an opposition protest calling for the release of political prisoners.

Witnesses said Syrian security personnel moved in to break up the rally by about 150 activists near the Interior Ministry, detaining at least five of them, according to news services.

Some of the protesters held signs calling for the release of political prisoners and greater freedom in the authoritarian state.

It was the second day that a small group of opposition activists had gathered in Damascus, but Assad's government has so far kept protests small, in part by arresting dissidents.

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

A special correspondent in Sana, Yemen, contributed to this report.

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