Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SANAA, Yemen — Uniformed soldiers killed 15 people Monday when they fired on a crowd of protesters demanding the ouster of longtime ruler President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Riot police moved on demonstrators with water cannons and pickups mounted with guns in the mountainous southern city of Taiz. They used tear gas to disperse them and then soldiers fired on them, witnesses said.

It was the second day demonstrators were fired on. On Sunday, one person was killed.

"More young people came today to join the protests after police attacked us yesterday," said Abdul Khadul, who witnessed the shootings. "Uniformed soldiers on rooftops fired on the youth after the riot police fired (tear) gas canisters."

Many demonstrators came from villages outside the city to join the protests. Demonstrators ran with the wounded to a nearby mosque, which was inundated with hundreds of activists suffering from inhalation of tear gas fumes, the witnesses said.

Plainclothes gunmen also opened fire on protesters in the Red Sea port of Hodeida after demonstrators took to the streets there. Yemen's official news agency, Saba News, denied that soldiers shot at protesters.

Saba News reported that the violence broke during clashes between supporters of the government and protesters. It said that anti-government protesters tried to storm government buildings and "forced police to open fire into the air and use tear gas to stop them."

Saleh, 65, has ruled for 32 years and agreed to leave office in 2013. Several top military officers have defected to the side of his opponents and taken over portions of the capital of Sanaa.

Saleh told a gathering of pro-government tribesmen that he would not bow to opponents.

"We will defend constitutional legitimacy by all means," he said. "We will stand as firm as mountains and will remain faithful to the people."

In Sanaa, thousands of protesters continued to call for Saleh's resignation and attempted to march from their encampment, on the streets outside the capital's main university, toward the presidential palace about a mile away. Soldiers loyal to the opposition blocked their route out of fear for their safety.

The country's Gulf neighbors have invited both sides to talks in Saudi Arabia to find a peaceful political resolution to the unrest.

Mustafa al-Sabri, a spokesman for a coalition of opposition parties, said U.S. and European diplomats have been in contact with Saleh and asked the opposition for their "vision" for a transition.

In response, the opposition over the weekend gave the Americans a proposal that Saleh step down and hand his powers to his vice president, who would then organize a rewriting of the constitution to allow for new elections, al-Sabri said.


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