At least 22 people have died and hundreds were injured on Sunday when troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh opened fired on protesters in Yemen’s capital of Sana, says Al Jazeera. Sunday’s crackdown occurred the day after thousands stormed Sana University and called for the end of Saleh’s rule: Last week, Saleh said that he authorized his Vice President, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, to negotiate a power transfer with the opposition “within a week.” But Saleh has repeatedly said that he will sign a proposal to transfer power only to refuse three times.
The past week has seen anti-government demonstrations grow accompanied by a heightened presence of security forces and armed supporters of the regime on the street, says the Guardian.
Six students were injured in the Saturday protests at Sana University, which resulted in classes not starting. Protesters took over administrative buildings and tore down photographs of Saleh in offices. Al Jazeera says that at least twenty other schools around Sanaa are closed because soldiers who had defected from the government are using them as barracks.
Yemenis have been staging protests and sit-ins since February near Sana University. On Sunday, demonstrators — numbering up to 100,000, according to witnesses — marched down Agriculture Street, which is on the eastern end of the protest site, says the New York Times. This was only the second time in months that protesters had left the site, which has been protected by Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, a long-time supporter of Saleh until he sided with the Yemeni opposition.
Protesters marching towards the center of Sana said that snipers in civilian clothes fired at them from rooftops of the Ministry of Electricity building; others fired anti-craft machine guns from the back of pickup trucks for over an hour. Another group of protesters at a different location, the Ring Road, met tear gas and gun fire as soon as they left an area protected by Ahmar’s troops. This video shows protesters marching and carrying a wounded man (please note: the video contains graphic material).
In Al Jazeera, journalist Tom Finn said he saw 16 bodies piled up in a mosque, with most shot in the head and some as young as 16 years old; most were under 22 years old.
Doctors said all three of Sana’s hospitals are filled and expect that the death toll will rise to over 50 by Monday. This video shows the scene in a field hospital and this video shows medical personnel scrambling to help the injured (please note that both contain footage of severely injured men).
Photos of those killed in the protests have been posted on a Facebook page. Please note that the photos are very graphic and, as digiphile says, “It used to be that only soldiers, war correspondents & emergency medical staff saw those kind of images. High risk of PTSD.” A surgeon in a Sana field hospital said that ”in my 30 year career, i have never seen anything as horrific as what ive seen today,” according to adammbaron.
The violence in Sana occurred only days after the United Nations issued a report urging the Yemeni government to use appropriate force against protesters. Protests also occurred in other cities in Yemen, including Taiz, Saada, Ibb and Damar. Below is a video of a rally in Taiz in southern Yemen.
The initiative to transfer power was proposed by the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council which includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. According to a Saudi official, Saleh — who remains in Saudi Arabia recovering from injuries sustained in an attack on June 3 — has demanded that his son be part of the government. Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, a member of the opposition, said that his forces did not return fire when they were fired at by the elite Republican Guard in Sana. Ahmar also said that he did not wish to “give Saleh any excuse not to sign a deal to transfer power after ruling the impoverished country for 33 years.”
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