Protesters in Sanaa call for Yemeni president's ouster

Demonstrators in four locations across the capital, led by opposition members and youth activists, decry "corrupt regime."

yemeniprotests 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
yemeniprotests 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
SAN'A, Yemen — Tens of thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets in the country's capital, calling for their President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster.
The protests are presenting Yemen's ruler — in power for nearly 32 years — with a new and unpredictable challenge, adding to the threat from an al-Qaida offshoot aiming to topple him, a southern secessionist movement and an on-and-off armed rebellion in the north.

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The protests are taking place at four different locations across Sanaa, led by opposition members and youth activists. The crowds were chanting for an end to the government of Saleh, who has been in power for nearly 32 years.
"It's about time for the political parties to lead a mass movement against the corrupt and despotic regime," Mohammed Abdul Malik, head of an alliance of opposition groups, told the rally in Sanaa.

The groups later said one of their leaders was kidnapped by people believed to be linked to the authorities.

They said Naef al-Qanis was beaten by unidentified people who later moved him to an unknown location.

Nearly half of Yemen's population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day and doesn't have access to proper sanitation. Less than a tenth of the roads are paved. Tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes by conflict, flooding the cities.

The government is riddled with corruption, has little control outside the capital, and its main source of income — oil — could run dry in a decade.

Saleh's current term in office expires in 2013 but proposed amendments to the constitution could let him remain in power for two additional terms of ten years.

Seeking to quell the new outbursts of dissent, Saleh delivered a televised speech Sunday night describing talk of him aiming to bequeath power to his son as the "utmost rudeness" and insisting the rumors were untrue.

He also announced he was increasing salaries for the armed forces in a step apparently meant to ensure the army's loyalty in the face of the rising challenges.

The rally was inspired by Tunisia's popular revolt that topped that country's ruler and this week's deadly protests that have gripped Egypt.

Saleh has tried to defuse simmering tensions by denying opponents' claims he plans to install his son as his successor and by raising salaries for the army.