Ten protesters shot dead as violence in Yemen grows

 

IN ONE of the bloodiest days of violence seen on the streets of Yemen’s capital, at least 10 anti-government protesters were shot dead and more than 100 wounded, just a day after the government and opposition parties agreed to sign a deal under which President Ali Abdullah Saleh would step down.

Protesters marched more than three miles through the capital Sanaa, in a planned attempt to take over the state television station yesterday evening in the north of the city. But as protesters chanted “Go Ali, go Ali”, plainclothes gunmen opened fire from a nearby sports stadium that is used as a campsite by government loyalists.

Demonstrators set cars alight at the entrance to the Al-Thowra football stadium and threw rocks as the sporadic “tack-tack” of AK-47 gunfire cracked to the backdrop of thunder and lightening. Black smoke filled the evening sky as the two sides fought a more than hour-long street battle.

One ambulance was riddled with bullets as medics rushed to extract the wounded for treatment at the mosque-turned-field-hospital in the heart of the anti-government tented encampment known as Change Square.

“We have more than 100 injured here so far,” said Dr Abdualmalek Alyosofi, as the wounded flooded through the gates of the chaotic mosque. Volunteer medics laid out the dead, resting copies of the Koran on their chests.

Yemen’s youth council, representing the anti-government protest movement, have stepped up their campaign in direct reaction to a political deal that could see Mr Saleh leave power in a month.

The political opposition and the ruling party agreed to travel to the Saudi capital Riyadh for a meeting on Sunday to sign the Gulf-brokered deal granting immunity from prosecution to Mr Saleh and his family and would see the president step down in 30 days.

But protesters have rejected the initiative and vowed to step up their campaign to oust the president.

Tactics by the youth council’s “field escalation committee” include calls for civil disobedience. In the port of Hodeidah on Wednesday, demonstrators blocked off roads bringing the city to a stand still. Strikes also took place in Taiz and in the city of Ibb.

Further clashes broke out in the southern port city of Aden after activists tried to enforce a general strike and the closure of businesses and schools.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International also raised its objection to the deal yesterday. It said Mr Saleh should not be allowed “a get-out-of-jail card to walk free from any question of investigation or justice for what has been done under his authority”.