SANAA, Mar 20, 2011- A crackdown that killed dozens failed to stop massive demonstrations against Yemen's U.S.-backed president, as crowds of thousands clashed Saturday with security forces smashing their protest camps and even seized control of one southern city.
In the capital, the government had to bring out tank units and other military forces to protect key buildings as crowds swelled. Protesters also stood their ground in the southern city of Mualla, surging out of their destroyed encampment and encircling a police station.
In the same province, witnesses said protesters chased security authorities out of the city of Dar Saad and were now in control. Dar Saad is considered the gateway to the key port of Aden.
Security and judicial officials said that orders to implement a large-scale military operation aimed at emptying main squares from protesters within the next 48 hours had been issued at a meeting of the higher defense council that was headed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Friday.
Saleh blamed the opposition for "incitement and chaos" that led to violent confrontations and deaths and declared Sunday a national day of mourning for the "martyrs of democracy."
Several more prominent members of Saleh's ruling Congress Party announced their resignations Saturday. Among them were two former culture ministers, the head of the state-run Saba news agency, Nasr Taha Moustafa, as well as the Yemeni ambassador to Beirut.
A group of Yemeni private-sector businessmen, traditionally supporters of the regime, also said in a statement Saturday that they were siding with the opposition in support of their "rightful and legitimate call for change."
Source: The Associated Press