Friday, March 11, 2011

Yemen protests swell on 'Friday of no return'

By Mohamed Sudam and Mohammed Ghobari

SANAA, Mar 11, 2011- Fighting broke out between small groups of government supporters and protesters on Friday as record crowds of tens of thousands called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to quit, dismissing his offer of reforms.

Yemenis flooded streets and alleys around Sanaa University in the biggest protest to hit the capital since demonstrations began in January. About 30 people have been killed since then. Outside the university dozens of people from both camps hurled rocks at each other as residents fired shots in the air to try and break up fighting. Protesters nearby told Reuters about ten people were being treated for minor injuries.

Several thousand Saleh loyalists also crammed Sanaa's Tahrir Square, touting pictures of the veteran leader.

"Your duty is to guard stability, I know many of you are suffering economic hardship, but we Muslims are different. Income comes from God and prayer," a preacher told them.

But loyalist numbers were dwarfed by the anti-government crowd, which Reuters reporters put at more than 40,000. Tens of thousands of protesters also marched in Taiz and Ibb, south of the capital.

In the southern port city of Aden, three people were wounded by gunfire and six were overcome by tear gas as police tried to disperse thousands of anti-government marchers. Elsewhere in the south, gunmen killed four soldiers on patrol in the city of Hajarain, officials said, blaming al-Qaida.

A wave of unrest, inspired partly by popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, has weakened Saleh's 32-year grip on his impoverished nation, a neighbour of oil giant Saudi Arabia and home to an agile and ambitious regional al-Qaida wing.

The protesters, marking what they called the "Friday of no return", gave short shrift to Saleh's offer on Thursday of a new constitution to be voted on this year and electoral reforms.

"We don't want initiatives, we want him to go," said one demonstrator, Ali Abdulrahman.

Tribesman Mohammed Saleh said: "All of us tribes are here now to demand that this man leaves. We're tired of him."

Several of Yemen's influential tribes have turned against Saleh, as have some Muslim clerics and ruling party lawmakers.


"It is only a matter of time before we see mass civil disobedience," said a senior government official, who asked not to be named. "Saleh will likely declare emergency law, but I do not think he will survive."

As Yemen's water and oil resources dry up, it has become increasingly difficult for Saleh, 68, to fuel the patronage system that kept his tribal and political supporters loyal.

In the central province of Maareb, residents said hundreds of Yemenis demonstrated because they had not been paid for attending Saleh's speech in Sanaa on Thursday.

The local newspaper Maareb Press said they been promised 50,000 Yemeni riyals ($233) and began shouting "the people demand the fall of the regime" when they did not get the money.

Protesters want an end to Saleh's autocratic system, in which his relatives and allies hold key posts. They also cite frustration with rampant corruption and soaring unemployment. Some 40 per cent of Yemen's 23 million people live on less than $2 a day and a third face chronic hunger.

The U.S. ambassador, in an interview with a state-backed magazine to be published on Saturday, encouraged protesters to engage in dialogue with the government on Yemen's future.

"Our question is always, if President Saleh leaves, then what do you do on the next day?" asked Gerald Feierstein.

The United States fears that Saleh's overthrow might lead to a power vacuum that would be exploited by Islamist militants in the Arabian Peninsula state, from which al-Qaida has launched attacks on Western and Saudi targets.

Source: Reuters

Yemen's opposition ‘thugs’ attack young man in Dhamar

Dhamar, Mar 11, 2011- Several supporters of the Yemen opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) have been accused of pushing a young Yemeni, Abdullah Hussein al-Rusabi, under the wheels of a truck in Dhamar province after they attacked him because he raised a photo of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Witnesses said that al-Rusabi was passing by a rally organized by the JMP last Tuesday. When he lifted the president’s picture he was allegedly beaten and pushed under a truck.

As a result, his legs were broken and he was immediately hospitalized in Ma’aber. Yahya Ali al-Omari, the governor of Dhamar province, and Mujahed Shayef al-Ansi, the general secretary of the local council of Dhamar, visited al-Rusabi in hospital and after the incident.

Medical staff at the hospital said that al-Rusabi needed an operation to treat his broken legs after they were smashed under the truck’s tires. The local community meanwhile condemned the incident and all kinds of attacks that youth face around the country.

Source: Yemen Observer

Yemen: Police Fail to Stop Attacks on Protesters

Pro-Government Assailants Injure Dozens in Ibb as Security Forces Abandon Posts

(Sanaa, March 11, 2011) –Yemeni authorities should take immediate steps to ensure that security forces prevent assaults against anti-government protesters and arrest those responsible, Human Rights Watch said today. In city after city in Yemen, security forces have stood by or fled, and failed to protect people exercising their right to peaceful assembly. In some cases it appeared that too few police were deployed to halt the attacks.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that on March 6, 2011, in the south-central city of Ibb, about100 men armed mostly with rocks, sticks, and glass bottles attacked hundreds of demonstrators calling for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, wounding dozens. Some security staff abandoned their posts. Others who struggled to stop the violence were overrun by the assailants and allowed the attackers to leave the scene after the two-hour rampage without apprehending them. President Saleh said on February 23 that security forces would protect demonstrators from such attacks.

"Three weeks after President Saleh promised to protect demonstrators, pro-government gangs are still viciously assaulting protesters while the security forces largely stand by and watch," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Saleh should forcefully condemn these attacks and take meaningful action to stop them."

Human Rights Watch previously documented attacks against anti-government demonstrators in the central town of al-Baida on March 3, the western port of al-Hudaida on March 2, and the capital, Sanaa, on February 18and 22, in which security forces also abandoned their posts or simply watched the violence unfold.

Five witnesses in Ibb told Human Rights Watch that shortly before midday on March 6, the assailants attacked anti-government protesters at the city's main bus station, renamed "Freedom Square," which had been peacefully occupied by thousands of people since mid-February. An hour earlier, government supporters held a rally in the municipal stadium on the other side of the city, the second since the sit-in at the bus station began, several sources told Human Rights Watch.

The authorities closed schools and government offices in Ibb that day, the sources said, apparently to ensure that officials and students could attend the rally. Two local journalists, Mohamed Al-Khairi and Ibrahim al-Baidani, told Human Rights Watch that they saw numerous military and police pickup trucks and 4x4s transport hundreds of pro-government demonstrators through town to the stadium.

Al-Baidani said that some days earlier a contact in General Security, Yemen's police force, had told him that the local branch of the General People's Congress, the president's ruling party, was planning to bring in hundreds – and perhaps thousands – of people from outside the city to attend the rally.

Both journalists said that at 11:45 a.m. on March 6, shortly after the pro-government rally ended, dozens of men approached the eastern side of the bus station. Carrying sticks, rocks, and glass bottles, they chanted pro-government slogans and shouted insults at the protesters, some of whom formed a chain across the bus station entrance.

Al-Baidani said he saw and heard a senior military police officer approach the demonstrators and tell them not to worry or fight the approaching crowd. The assailants tried to get past about 10 military police who were standing in front of the anti-government protesters, but the military police held the assailants back and fired warning shots in the air when they faced resistance.

Al-Baidani also said that 11 General Security officers as well as the deputy director of the city's Criminal Investigation Department, along with about 15 men in military uniform, were standing near the pro-government crowd, watching them closely. Al-Khairi said a number of officers had left the scene in a Central Security vehicle.

Al-Khairi, who watched the start of the clash from the roof of the nearby al-Ghufran mosque, said that about 50 assailants appeared on the eastern side of the bus station and threw stones at the protesters. About 10 military police and 20 armed General Security officers tried to stop the assailants from advancing by hitting them on the legs with sticks and firing guns in the air. Al-Khairi said the protesters were shouting, "Our revolution is peaceful," "Police and military, you are one of us," and "Shame on you, President Saleh. Why are you attacking us?"

One protester, Yahya Ali Mohammed Sharif, told Human Rights Watch he was one of the first to be injured when a stone struck his forehead: "They were throwing glass bottles so at first I thought it was a water bottle. Then I realized it was blood running down my face, so I stumbled to our medical tent."

Al-Khairi, the journalist, moved to the eastern side of the square. He said he could then see the pro-government gang throwing stones at the protesters, injuring several dozen. Some anti-government protesters responded by throwing stones back, he said, while other protesters restrained them. Al-Khairi said General Security officers told him after the attack that none of the pro-government assailants were injured.

Al-Khairi said that at around 2:15 p.m., shots were fired and he heard some of the protesters shout, "They are dead! They are dead!" at which point the assailants stopped throwing stones. Both journalists said the assailants then left, while the military police and dozens of General Security officers stood next to five General Security vehicles and watched, without trying to arrest any of them. At 3 p.m., al-Khairi said, after all the assailants had left, anti-riot police arrived and formed a cordon around the anti-government protesters for about 20 minutes.

"Despite initial attempts to prevent the assailants from reaching the protesters, the security forces simply let them go," Stork said. "Yemeni authorities should arrest and prosecute those responsible for these criminal attacks."

Yemeni authorities should deploy sufficient security personnel to protect anti-government protesters from violent attacks, Human Rights Watch said. All too often, Yemeni security forces have been used to attack peaceful protesters rather than to ensure their security, Human Rights Watch said. The security forces have shot and killed at least 10 anti-government protesters at largely peaceful rallies – nine in February in the southern port city of Aden and one on March 8 in Sanaa – and injured more than 200 others.

A doctor at Ibb's Dar al-Shifa hospital told Human Rights Watch that he interviewed 11 injured protesters admitted to the hospital between 12:30 and 4 p.m. on March 6. He said all 11 told him they had been attacked by assailants in "Freedom Square" with sticks, stones, and daggers.

The doctor said that three of the patients were seriously injured, two from dagger wounds and a third who had been struck in the back with a heavy rock and then stomped on. Others had broken noses and minor head injuries. The doctor said he knew of 11 other patients who had been admitted to al-Shifa hospital on March 6 in the aftermath of the attack on the protesters.

On March 7, the doctor said, several men in military uniform came to the hospital to get a list of the injured protesters and asked whether they had left the hospital.

A protester who assisted the demonstrators' medical committee during the attack told Human Rights Watch that as of March 8, the committee had registered 67 injured protesters, some of whom had only come forward the day after the attack. He said most injuries were to the head and chest and caused by rocks.

Al-Baidani, the journalist, told Human Rights Watch he had spent some of the time during the attack in the protesters' medical tent, where he said he interviewed and photographed 34 of the injured, most of whom had head and limb injuries caused by stones and sticks.

The doctor said that five of the injured told him that unknown persons had shot at the protesters from a white building overlooking the square. The second journalist, al-Khairi, said the protesters' medical committee had recorded two gunshot wounds. One man was hit in the chest, and a second man's head was grazed by a bullet. Sharif, the protester who was one of the first to be injured, also said that he had seen one person whose head had been grazed by a bullet, whom he had taken to the Nasr government hospital.

Sharif said that late on March 6 some assailants returned to "Freedom Square" and shouted at protesters that if they did not leave, the assailants would throw grenades into the protest site.

"The pattern of violence in Ibb and other Yemeni cities suggests that pro-government assailants are confident they will not be stopped or held to account," Stork said. "If President Saleh fails to fulfil his promise of protection, peaceful protesters will continue to end up in hospitals and graves."

Source: Human Rights Watch (HRW)

One Soldier Killed, another Wounded in Sa'ada Province

By Fatik Al-Rodaini
Sa'ada, Mar 11, 2011- At least one soldier was killed and another wounded in Sa'ada province when an armed group belonging to Houthi group fired live bullets towards them.
Major Ali Drahem Harmel from Sheikh Othman Majeli's tribe, a Yemeni parliamentary member, was killed immediately after being shot by Houthi group.
Eyewitnesses said that there have been sporadic clashes around the area between Houthis and tribesmen belonging to Abdin tribe since last year.
On the other hand, Yemen's Interior Minister said that Houthis seized a government hospital in Azaher district, Al-Jowf province firing workers there.
Yemen has witnessed sporadic battles since 2004 between Yemeni government troops and rebels.
Source: Yemen 24 News

Large Protests Take Place in Yemen

Sana'a- Mar 11, 2011- Tens of thousands of anti- and pro-government protesters have taken to the streets of Yemen's capital after Friday prayers.

Protesters against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule gathered at Sana'a University in the capital, with crowds stretched back about two kilometers.

In a counter rally in the capital's Tahrir Square, tens of thousands of Saleh loyalists gathered, touting pictures of the 68-year-old leader.

The demonstrations followed the March 10 proposal by Saleh, a U.S. ally against Al-Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, for a new constitution to be put to referendum within the year and new electoral laws to ensure equal representation.

Opposition figures rejected the offer, calling it "too little, too late."

Source: Radio Free Europe

India asks its nationals in Yemen to leave

New Delhi, Mar 11, 2011- India on Friday asked its nationals, whose presence is not essential, to leave Yemen by available commercial means, besides advising the citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the country in view of the evolving situation.

"In view of the evolving situation in Yemen those Indian Nationals residing in Yemen, whose presence is not essential, particularly families, may consider leaving the country by the commercial means available," Ministry of External Affairs in its advisory said.

"All non-essential travel to Yemen, meanwhile, may be avoided until the situation improves," it said.

According to official figures, nearly 11,000 Indians are currently staying in various parts of the country.

Yemen is witnessing massive protests against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Source: Indian Express