Local News Political Analysis

Yemen Police Kill Five as Protests Escalate









Yemeni police opened fire on protesters in Sanaa and Taiz on
Tuesday, killing at least five people, as protesters tried to
escalate their campaign to end President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year

The clashes came as Gulf mediators met with a government delegation in
Abu Dhabi to discuss a transfer of presidential powers in the
Arab state, strategically important in the US-led fight against

The meeting in the United Arab Emirates capital ended with only a
brief statement saying the talks had been “constructive, reflecting
the desire of the parties to arrive at an agreement,” though the
opposition was not itself present.

5 people died and nearly 100 were hit by bullets when riot police
clashed with protesters marching toward Sanaa’s main Zubeiri Street,
near the home of vice president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, medical resources in the change square said.

Protesters stoned the riot police and set fire to a security vehicle,
witnesses said. Al-Jazeera television showed medics tending to dozens
of wounded covered in blood.

State media said Saleh ordered an investigation into the incident,
blaming opposition party activists.

“The opposition charged infiltrators with opening fire from houses on a march at Sitteen
Street,” 26 September website said.

Protestors threatened that if several detained doctors were not released by the end of the day, they would march to the presidential palace.  The men were promptly released at 10 o’clock pm.
A Reuters reporter said riot police opened fire on protesters, who
were blocked from marching any further by government-manned checkpoint, began throwing
bags of dye at soldiers from overlooking buildings and chanting
anti-Saleh slogans.

The demonstrators have so far mainly been confined to an area around
Sana’a University, where they have been camped out since February to
press for political reform, while Saleh supporters have often gathered
in other parts of the city.

At least one person was shot dead and another wounded in Taiz, south
of Sana’a, as protesters across the country tested security forces’
limits after three months of demonstrations demanding Saleh’s ousting.
Police opened fire in Taiz when protesters burned tires in the street.

Opposition sources said security forces arrested a well-known
television presenter at Sana’a airport who quit state television for an
opposition channel run by tribal chief Hamid al-Ahmar. Security
officials were not available for comment.

“They (protesters) are resorting to these tactics to try to escalate
the situation because they feel like their demands are not being met,”
said Mohammed al-Mohammedi, a protester in Taiz.

Protesters shouted orders to salute soldiers who belonged to a
battalion loyal to General Ali Mohsen, who has sent troops to protect
demonstrators in Sanaa, as they marched past an army post manned by
his troops.

Protesters in Sana’a and the Red Sea port of Hudeida have tried to
march outside their traditional protest zones in recent days,
prompting clashes with police who sought to pen them back.

Both Western and Gulf Arab allies have tried without success to broker
a resolution involving a transition of power from Saleh, who has led
the Arabian Peninsula state for 32 years. He says he wants a handover,
but only to “safe hands.”

Western countries and Arab neighbors say they fear sustained clashes
in the mountainous country where Saleh has already lost control of
several provinces would cause chaos that could benefit an active
Al-Qaeda wing operating in Yemen.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Yemeni opposition
should be careful not to hold back from talks in the hope of getting
foreign help to topple the government.

“That is a very dangerous logic which can cause a chain reaction,” he
said on a visit to Serbia. “All those responsible, particularly
members of the UN Security Council, must not opt for conflicts but for


Gulf Arab states stepped in this month with an offer to mediate in
Yemen after Western-brokered talks stalled.

The opposition, who initially rejected Gulf-led talks because they had
not set a departure timeframe for Saleh, met Gulf ministers separately
in Riyadh on Sunday.

Protesters expressed hopes the talks in Abu Dhabi would lead
somewhere. “We have great hopes that the Abu Dhabi meeting will
extract a clear commitment for Saleh to leave,” said Meshaal Mujahid,
a protest organizer in Sanaa.

But he said the protest movement planned to escalate their campaign
with mass strikes.

The government delegation in Abu Dhabi included Foreign Minister
Abubakr al-Qirbi and Abdel-Karim al-Eryani, a former prime minister
and foreign minister popular with Washington.

Saleh, whose term ends in 2013, has warned of civil war and the
break-up of the country if he is forced out.

More than 117 protesters have been killed in clashes with security
forces since January. A US-based media watchdog said a Yemeni
journalist for an Islamist opposition television channel was missing
after being summoned by authorities.