Yemeni Protesters Defy President Saleh; 12 Killed
Government forces and plainclothes supporters of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh opened fire on protesters in the capital of Sanaa on Saturday. 12 were killed. Protesters had been calling for the resignation of Saleh, who recently turned to Yemen after spending months receiving medical treatment after an assassination attempt in his presidential compound in June. The renewed suppression has diminished hopes for any kind of negotiations to end the political crisis that has now entered its ninth month in Yemen, with drastic consequences for the country’s already weak economy and with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other terrorist groups taking control of large areas of Yemen’s southern provinces.
Some 100,000 people, including women and children, had left the tent city in Change Square and marched towards Sanaa. They were met with sniper fire and plain-clothed government loyalists armed with steel batons. But protesters continued their march, some young men baring their chests in defiance as the crowd shouted “Oh Ali Saleh, the courts are waiting for you.” In the afternoon, clashes also arose between soldiers under Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, who defected to side with the protesters, and the elite Republican Guard, which is led by one of Saleh’s sons.
Among those struck was a cameraman for Al Jazeera, who was shot in the knee. A number of cameramen have been killed in Yemen, and suspicions have arisen that they are being targeted.
United Nations To Issue Resolution About Yemen
Next week, the United Nations Security Council is to vote on a resolution that calls for Saleh to resign immediately, in return for immunity from prosecution. The Yemeni government is urging the UN to avoid such a resolution, but protesters feel otherwise:
Protesters are hoping to see decisive action from the security council. Many in the anti-Saleh camp accuse both Riyadh and Washington of supporting Saleh, who had once been their ally against al-Qaida‘s Yemen-based wing. They accuse the west of adopting double standards by supporting the pro-democracy uprising in Libya but not in Yemen.
“We ask the west and our neighbours in the Gulf to withdraw their support for Saleh and his sons in order to stop this blood from spilling,” said Dr Tariq Noman, a surgeon who has given up his job in a private hospital to treat the wounded.
Doctors say that people are dying because of a shortage of medical supplies. Most of those who have died were shot in the head, neck or chest.
A senior Al Qaeda figure was among nine killed in southern Yemen by airstrikes believed to have been carried out by American drones on Saturday, according to the country’s defense ministry. All those who died have yet to be confirmed. Abdelrahman al-Awlaki , the 17-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and propagandist for Al Qaeda who was killed last month by a US drone strike, is said to be among those killed.
The American drone strike that struck Awlaki has been controversial, as he was killed without a trial:
The United States has arguedthat he had taken on an operational role in the organization, plotting attacks against Americans, which made him a legitimate target.
The killing of his son in a drone attack on Friday night, if confirmed, would be the third time an American was killed by such a United States attack in Yemen, although it was not clear if the son was an intended target. A second American, Samir Khan, the editor of Al Qaeda’s online magazine, was killed in the attack on Mr. Awlaki, which was launched from a new secret C.I.A. base on the Arabian Peninsula.
Two other relatives of the Awlaki family were among those killed on Friday night, but it is not clear if they ere Al Qaeda members. A key gas pipeline was also blown up in the airstrike.
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Photo taken in August 2011 by Al Jazeera English