Security forces fire in Yemen, wounding marchers

Security forces fire in Yemen, wounding marchers
# 25 April 2011 18:56 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Yemeni security forces opened fire Monday to block a thousands-strong protest and wounded at least 10 people, amid uncertainty over a Gulf plan for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down within weeks and end a political standoff, APA reports quoting “Reuters”.
Witnesses said security men opened fire to stop protesters from marching through the city of Taiz, south of the capital, to join a pro-democracy rally via a route that would take them past a palace belonging to Saleh.
"There were thousands in a march who came from outside Taiz, but the police and army and gunmen in civilian clothes confronted them, opening fire with bullets and tear gas," said Jamil Abdullah, a protest organizer.
"They opened fire heavily from every direction."
Witnesses said at least 10 people were wounded by gunfire in Taiz, which has been the scene of some of Yemen’s largest anti-Saleh protests, while scores more were overcome by tear gas. Dozens were arrested, activists said.
The potential for fractious Yemen to descend further into bloodshed is a major concern for Saudi Arabia and the United States, who fear an active al Qaeda wing could exploit ensuing chaos to further entrench itself in the Arabian Peninsula state.
Clashes in Taiz were continuing, with heavy gunfire reported, and activists said the number of wounded was expected to rise. Similar clashes broke out in the town of Ibb, where three protesters were shot and wounded and four more were beaten with batons when police tried to break up a street march.
Saleh, facing pressure to resign to end three months of street protests, has agreed in principle to a Gulf Arab deal to step down within weeks in exchange for immunity from prosecution for him, his family and aides.
Yemen’s main opposition coalition, made up of Islamists and leftists, have conditionally welcomed such a deal, but have stopped short of a full endorsement and said they would refrain from taking part in a unity government in a transition period.
But no formal deal has been signed.
Protesters, who demand Saleh be prosecuted over a crackdown that has left more than 120 protesters dead since demonstrations began, have vowed to step up street protests, fearing Saleh’s inner circle could slow or stop his departure.
Saleh, a political survivor, has said he would not seek reelection when his term ends in 2013, and later vowed to stand down this year after organizing parliamentary and presidential elections.
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