At least 2 dead, 8 injured as violence flares in Yemen

Anti-gov't protesters declare "Friday of Rage," clash with riot police who fire tear gas and shots into air to disperse crowds;

By ASSOCIATED PRESS, JPOST.COM STAFF
February 18, 2011 17:45
2 minute read.
Yemeni riot police charge towards protesters

yemen protests 311. (photo credit: AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

SANAA, Yemen — At least two people were killed and dozens wounded as anti-government demonstrators clashed with supporters of Yemen's  longtime ruler and riot police, Reuters reported.

The riot police fired tear gas and shots in the air to disperse the crowd on what organizers called a "Friday of Rage" across the country.

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In the city of Taiz, what appeared to be a hand grenade was thrown at a group of protesters, seriously wounding at least eight people in the blast and stampede that followed, witnesses said.

Riots also flared overnight in the southern port of Aden with police shooting to death one demonstrator after cars and a local government building were set ablaze, officials said.

It was the eighth straight day of protests in Yemen inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Demonstrators in the Arab world's poorest country are calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh — a key US ally in fighting al-Qaida terrorists — who has ruled the country for 32 years.

Organizers used social media sites Facebook and Twitter in summoning people to the streets for the "Friday of Rage" following noon prayers, and tens of thousands responded in the capital of Sanaa, the southern port of Aden and the political hotbed of Taiz.

A preacher at the Sanaa University mosque spoke out against torture and beating of demonstrators, telling many protesters who had gathered there: "We have been living for 30 years without purpose or hope."

Imam Jabri Al Yamani admonished the crowd that "protests must be peaceful and not scare and harm the people," but as demonstrators marched toward the presidential palace afterward, the scene descended into violence.

The crowd, chanting anti-government slogans, was met by a heavy deployment of riot police and hundreds of Saleh supporters, similar to confrontations earlier this week. The pro-and anti-government sides attacked each other with rocks, and the riot police began firing in the air and launching tear gas canisters.

At least four people were hurt seriously enough to be taken away by ambulances.

The demonstrators dispersed to other streets, some of which were blocked by police.

Journalists also came under attack by government supporters. An Associated Press reporter saw men wielding sticks attack a TV crew, smashing their camera. Other photographers took refuge in nearby building to avoid the mob.

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa said it has seen "a disturbing rise in the number and violence of attacks against Yemeni citizens" at peaceful protests.

The statement added that diplomats also saw reports that Yemen government officials "were present during these attacks," which it called "contrary to the commitments that President Saleh has made to protect the right of Yemeni citizens to gather peacefully to express their views."

It urged the government "to prevent any further attacks on peaceful demonstrations and to ensure that all Yemenis, both pro- and anti-government, have equal rights to speech and assembly."


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