Sunday, March 13, 2011

Police on rooftops fired live bullets and tear gas at protesters Sunday, injuring more than 100 people who were camping near Sanaa University, the latest in weeks of demonstrations calling for the Yemeni president to step down.

Wielding clubs and knives, police and government supporters also attacked protesters on the ground, said Mohammed al-Abahi, a doctor in charge of a makeshift hospital near the university.

Among the injured, more than 20 suffered gas inhalation, and one was in critical condition after being struck with a bullet, the doctor said.

The violence came a day after security forces killed seven demonstrators in protests around the country.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley expressed deep concern and said the violence must stop. "We call on the Yemeni government to quickly investigate these incidents," he said, adding, "People everywhere share the same universal rights to demonstrate peacefully and to freely assemble and express themselves."

In the southern Aden province, demonstrators stormed a police station, seizing weapons after the police fled, witnesses said.

In the Taiz province, clashes between demonstrators and police left at least four wounded, witnesses said.

Yemen has been hit by the wave of protests since mid-February. Even before that, the country's government was weak and struggling to confront one of the world's most active al-Qaida branches, a secessionist rebellion in the south and a Shiite uprising in the north.

The protests are part of a wave of unrest sweeping the region. Yemen's demonstrators are calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 32 years in power, a demand he has repeatedly rejected while also trying to assuage opposition groups.

Saleh has said he would not seek another term in office in 2013, and offered to form a unity government with opposition figures. These overtures have failed to satisfy the protesters.

On Sunday, Saleh sacked a close relative from a senior military post. He later announced his support for the protests.

Major General Abdel Illah al-Qadi told reporters he planned to visit protesters in Sanaa later Sunday. Al-Qadi's son, Mohammed, resigned earlier from the ruling Congress Party.

Resigned parliament member Abdel-Bari Degheish said a protester in Aden died Sunday from wounds he suffered a day earlier, bringing to seven the number killed during Saturday's demonstrations.


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