SANAA,YEMEN: A Yemeni protester died on Sunday from gunshot wounds sustained in clashes with police in the southern port of Aden, and demonstrators gathered in the capital Sanaa for a new round of anti-government rallies.
Four people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed in various protests around Yemen on Saturday as an opposition drive to end the President, Mr Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year-rule was met with increasing violence.
The United States, which sees Mr Saleh as an important ally in its fight against a highly active al Qaeda cell based in Yemen, said it was dismayed by the bloodshed and called for calm.
But neither Mr Saleh nor his opponents looked ready to back down in a confrontation that has cost more than 30 lives over the past two months.
Several thousand people gathered outside Sanaa University on Sunday, the epicenter of protests in the capital, setting up barricades to separate themselves from dozens of riot police who stood at a distance alongside water cannon.
They carried banners branding Mr Saleh “Chemical Ali” in reference to the police’s use of an apparent tear gas that doctors have said affects the nervous system. The Interior Ministry has denied the accusation. On Saturday, police fired volleys of tear gas and water cannon in a pre-dawn operation aimed at preventing a protester camp from expanding still further. The crowds responded with a hail of rocks and live ammunition was fired.
The United States called for a “peaceful transition” of power in Yemen and urged Saleh’s administration to investigate the wave of deaths and injuries. “The US government is strongly on record as defending the rights of citizens to demonstrate peacefully,” the US embassy in Sanaa said on a statement.
“The Embassy also rejects any allegation that the US government has somehow condoned the use of violence by any side,” it added, saying only dialogue would resolve the crisis.
A wave of protests, inspired by popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, has weakened Saleh’s grip on Yemen, but he has steadfastly refused calls for his resignation, offering instead to re-write the constitution and transfer powers to parliament.
Protesters in the faction-riven country, complain of rampant corruption and soaring unemployment and say change is needed to resolve their woes.