Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Doctor says 9 protesters killed in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- A Yemeni doctor says nine protesters have been killed and some 100 wounded when security forces opened fire on an anti-government demonstration in the Yemeni capital.

Mohammed al-Ibahi, a doctor at the scene of the shooting in a square in Sanaa, said many of the dead and wounded suffered gunshot wounds to the head and torso.

AP PhotoThe protest on Wednesday is the latest in a wave of massive demonstrations demanding the ouster of longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's leader of 32 years.

The deadly clash Wednesday is likely to further fuel the two-month, anti-regime protests.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) - Yemenis in major cities and towns across the nation launched a civil disobedience campaign Wednesday to bring down the long-serving president as security troops fired into anti-government protesters in another day of deadly violence, activists said.

The disobedience campaign is the latest in Yemen's uprising that started in early February, inspired by revolts across the Arab world. Massive near-daily protests have called for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country's ruler of 32 years.

According to opposition activists, residents in at least 18 cities and towns got involved in the disobedience campaign, with shops and schools closed and government offices shuttered. The closures are planned twice weekly until Saleh goes, activists said.

Saleh has clung to power despite the street protests and defections by many loyalist, including his tribesmen, military officers and ranking government figures. More than 130 people have been killed by security forces and Saleh's supporters since the unrest erupted.

In Wednesday's violence, units of the Republican Guard in the southern port city of Aden clashed with anti-government demonstrators who were marking the anniversary of the 1994 outbreak of Yemen's civil war that saw Saleh's army suppress an attempt by the southerners to secede.

One protester was killed and dozens were wounded in the clashes that involved tanks, armored cars and heavy weapons, according to local activist Wajdi al-Shaabi.

The capital Sanaa saw about 100,000 protesters flood a landmark square at the epicenter of the uprising, spilling into the streets around the state TV building. Witnesses said security forces and Republican Guard shot live ammunition and tear gas into the crowd to break it up. Snipers were seen on nearby rooftops aiming at the crowd.

Hospital officials said five protesters were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.

And in the country's second largest city, Taiz, tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated Wednesday in main streets against a Gulf Arab initiative which gives Saleh and his family immunity against prosecution, activist Nouh al-Wafi said.

Elsewhere, two soldiers were killed and three others wounded when masked gunmen attacked a military checkpoint at the entrance of Zinjibar, the capital of southern Abyan province that has been a hotbed for Islamic militants.

Col. Ahmed al-Muhsini of Zinjibar intelligence office confirmed the attack over the telephone and told The Associated Press that the assailants fled afterward.

Along with prevailing poverty, rampant corruption and lawlessness, southern secessionism and a Shiite uprising in the north, Yemen has also had to deal with brazen militant attacks and a resurgent al-Qaida branch that has been active both inside the country and beyond its borders.

The authors of the Gulf Arab initiative, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, will meet Sunday in the Saudi capital Riyadh where its foreign ministers are to fine-tune the draft proposal for ending Yemen's crisis.

Yemen's opposition parties said Tuesday they will soon sign the deal, which Saleh has already agreed to. It calls for the creation of national unity government and would have Saleh transfer power to his vice president within 30 days of the signing of the deal. In exchange, Saleh and his family would received immunity from prosecution.

But the proposal appears to have opened a serious rift between opposition parties and the hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets, who are suspicious and instead demand Saleh resign immediately.

The head of the Yemeni opposition's council for dialogue, Salem Mohammed Bassindwa, said GCC chief Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani would visit Sanaa on Saturday, ahead of the meeting in Riyadh.

Saudi reports have speculated that the deal on ending Yemen's crisis could be signed as early as Monday in Riyadh.

In a sign of the opposition's suspicions, Bassindwa said his side would only accept a deal that Saleh signed personally and not one signed by a presidential envoy. He suggested it would be best for Saleh to sign the agreement in Sanaa, with witnesses from the GCC, United States and the European Union.