Yemen Protests Turn Violent; Dozens of Protestors Killed by Yemeni Army

Sep 19, 2011, 08:40 by R.E. Christian

Diplomatic officials arrived in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday against a backdrop of street violence to try to organize a peaceful transfer of power.

The talks come as new clashes in Sanaa left one person dead Monday, bringing the death toll since fighting began Sunday to 29, a medic told CNN.

The state-run Saba news agency said U.N. envoy to Yemen JamalBin Omar and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdul Latif al-Zayyani would discuss a GCC transfer-of-power plan with Yemeni officials designated by President Ali Abdullah Saleh to act on his behalf.

The proposal, first offered in May, would allow Saleh to resign after transferring executive powers to Vice President Abd Rabo Mansou Hadi. Saleh initially indicated he would agree to the pact, but later refused to sign.

Medics reported protesters in Taiz were fired upon as government forces loyal to Saleh tried to disperse them. At least six people were injured.

Witnesses told CNN troops loyal to Saleh were seen firing randomly at protesters Monday as demonstrations were reported on nearly every street in Yemen's capital.

Witnesses said explosions and gunfire could be heard from near an intersection where protesters have been conducting sit-ins for months, The New York Times reported. The First Armored Division took over the area Sunday as a protective detail for the protesters after clashing with security forces who defected and protesters who pitched tents in the major intersection, witnesses said.

Yemen's divided military has been at a standoff for months.

Closed were roads leading to Change Square, where thousands had a 7-month sit-in, calling for the resignation of Saleh, recuperating in Saudi Arabia from a June attack on his residence.

The Hasaba zone in Sanaa's northwestern part also saw violent clashes between tribesmen loyal to the revolution and the Republican Guards Sunday night. Hasaba is home to Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of the Hashed tribal confederation, whose tribes fought with government troops in May.

Witnesses to Sunday's fighting told media outlets they saw snipers firing into crowds of demonstrators from rooftops and trucks.

The violence broke out when protesters marched from Sanaa University toward heavily guarded government buildings, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"We were walking and chanting, 'Peaceful, peaceful,'" Hamdi Mohammed, a demonstrator, told the Los Angeles Times. "But then the soldiers attacked us and we threw rocks and gasoline bombs. They opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. It was horrible what they did to us."

Government officials said the demonstrators were trying to occupy government buildings and the state radio station, which protesters denied.

Officials said one soldier was killed and 65 were wounded in Sunday's clashes.

The opposition National Council condemned the attack and urged the international community to act against Saleh's regime, CNN reported.

"These crimes will not be forgotten and the regime will stand trial and in front of international questioning," the council said in a statement.

The Interior Ministry denied it was behind the attacks and blamed militias for the violence.

Source: UPI