Wednesday, October 19, 2011

11 die as 'thugs' besiege Sanaa protest

Mohammed al Qadhi

Oct 19, 2011

SANAA // At least 11 protesters were killed and dozens wounded yesterday when police and government "thugs" attacked a demonstration demanding the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, leave power, human-rights officials, doctors and demonstrators said.

Police and men in plain clothes opened fire and shot tear gas on the thousands of people who marched through Sanaa yesterday.

Five people were dead at a private hospital and a field clinic in the protest camp that has become known as Change Square, Dr Mohammed Al Qubati said.

At least 70 people were wounded, he added, and dozens more suffered from tear gas inhalation.

Witnesses also said government troops had carried away the bodies of six dead protesters, said Abdulrehman Barman, the secretary of the National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms, a non-governmental organisation.

He added that he had received reports that about 400 protesters, including three women, were arrested.

The protests started midmorning and were led by shirtless young men who marched through the streets with the words "Leave ... you butcher" scrawled across their chests.

About 30 minutes after the march started, activists said they were attacked.

"Police and thugs besieged us from different sides and opened fire and tear gas heavily. Some people told some of us to escape to street allies, but were trapped as thugs started attacking them with daggers and batons," said Hussein Al Mulaiki. "I have seen several people killed and wounded."

Mr Al Mulaiki said he saw people thrown into vehicles or dragged away to other buildings.

Hisham Al Dayash, who was also at the march, said he saw at least four women dragged away during the attack.

"I saw the thugs beating some of our colleagues brutally with batons and daggers. Police have used tear gas heavily. Some fainted and they snatched them," he said.

Violence has escalated as the protesters, frustrated by the political stalemate, have begun to march out of their camp, which is protected by former government troops who defected during the protests, into areas under control of government loyalists.

More than 20 protesters were killed and hundreds wounded in Sanaa over the past three days.

In addition to the attacks on protesters, at least 20 tribal fighters, defected soldiers and civilians were killed in the past three days in clashes and heavy shelling in Sanaa.

Clashes and blasts were heard yesterday in north Sanaa after a short lull following battles and bombings on Monday and Sunday evening.

Late on Monday, Yemen's Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakkul Karman, said the UN must act "immediately and decisively" to halt the crackdown. Ms Karman urged the United Nations "to take immediate and decisive action to stop the massacres and hold the perpetrators accountable", in a letter to the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon.

"This is the only thing that will give Yemenis ... confidence that international justice exists ... and that it extends far enough to reach Saleh, his gang and all the despots who continue to kill innocents."

The UN Security Council is expected to vote this week on a resolution calling on Mr Saleh to implement the Gulf-brokered deal that would have him resign and transfer power to his deputy in return for immunity from prosecution for his family and inner circle.

He has backed away from signing the deal several times, even though his party and opposition have signed it.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said yesterday that "international law is pretty clear" and that amnesty cannot be granted to someone who could face war-crimes charges. The National Council of the Forces of Revolution, a coalition of oppositions groups, said yesterday that it was against amnesty for Mr Saleh.

The coalition called on the UN Security Council not to provide any immunity to the "head and pillars of the regime which committed crimes against humanity".

The council urged the Yemeni people to increase the size and frequency of peaceful protests.

No comments:

Post a Comment