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Yemeni forces open fire on protesters

Several are killed during clashes in several cities over President Ali Abdullah Saleh's refusal to step down.

May 12, 2011|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
  • An antigovernment protester wearing a gas mask takes part in a demonstration in Sana to demand the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
An antigovernment protester wearing a gas mask takes part in a demonstration… (MOHAMMED HUWAIS, AFP/Getty…)

Reporting from Cairo — Yemeni security forces opened fire on anti-government demonstrators Wednesday, killing several people and injuring dozens as embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh continued his refusal to step down.

In Sana, the capital, a protest march of tens of thousands was confronted by forces loyal to Saleh, resulting in at least one death and scores of injuries.

In the southern commercial hub of Taiz, at least two protesters were killed in clashes with security forces. And in the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah, at least one protester was reportedly killed when security forces opened fire after marchers tried to force their way into a government building.

Crowds were frustrated over stalled negotiations to end Saleh's nearly 33-year rule, including an agreement brokered by fellow members of the Gulf Cooperation Council that Saleh has not signed.

Abdul Hafez Noman, a leader of Yemen's opposition Baath party, said council members still favored the agreement, which would allow Saleh to leave office with immunity.

"A major clash here would severely harm the interests of Saudi Arabia and its neighbors," he said. "They would prefer a transition that would proceed peacefully, but still guarantee their significant influence in Yemen's internal affairs."

But with violence spreading ahead of Friday, traditionally a major day of protest, experts said a peaceful transition appeared increasingly unlikely.

"Neither side wants to be the first to employ mass violence, but both the opposition and regime elements are closely considering the benefits of a showdown," said Abdul-Ghani Iryani, a political analyst based in Sana.

Ghazi Samaee, a human rights activist in Taiz, said part of the protesters' strategy is to escalate activities and apply overwhelming pressure on the regime.

"Every day we are met with aggression," he said, "but we must persevere until the president leaves."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

A special correspondent in Sana contributed to this report.

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