SANAA (AFP) — Yemeni police shot dead 12 people and injured dozens of others on Saturday as they opened fire on demonstrators in Sanaa demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation, medics said.
Security forces used live rounds as well as tear gas and water cannon to try to disperse hundreds of thousands of Saleh opponents trying to march on loyalist areas of the city center from their Change Square stronghold, witnesses said.
The death toll went up to at least 12 according to several medics as bodies were taken to four different hospitals.
The clashes erupted on Al-Zubeiri Street which marks the dividing line between parts of the capital held by troops loyal to Saleh and those held by dissident units under the command of General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who rallied to the opposition in March.
Activists had called on protesters to march on the front lines on Saturday in a bid to bring to a head 10 months of increasingly bloody demonstrations against Saleh’s 33-year rule in Sanaa.
Meanwhile, local officials said the death toll from air strikes that killed a senior Al-Qaeda official in southern Yemen had risen to 24.
The Defense Ministry insisted Yemeni aircraft had carried out the attack on Friday night.
Also Saturday, gas exports from Yemen’s Balhaf terminal on the Gulf of Aden were suspended after a rocket attack blew up a pipeline just to the north, in what officials suggested was a revenge attack for the Al-Qaeda leader’s death.
“The pumping of liquefied natural gas from the Balhaf terminal was stopped because of an explosion on one of its main pipelines,” an engineer working at the site told AFP.
“The pipeline was badly damaged, resulting in halting production,” he said, adding that the pipeline was still on fire.
“We have not succeeded in containing the fire because the hole caused by the explosion is very big,” he said, adding that fixing the pipeline “could take weeks.”
A Shabwa provincial official told AFP earlier that overnight, saboteurs struck the pipeline in Al-Hahina district, just two kilometers from the Balhaf terminal, disrupting its operations.
“Following the attack, operations were halted in several parts of the terminal,” the official said asking not to be identified.
Huge columns of flame and plumes of smoke were visible from as far as 25 kilometers away, witnesses told AFP.
There was no immediate claim for the attack but the provincial official said he thought it was likely to have been an Al-Qaeda attack carried out in retaliation for apparent US air strikes in Shabwa on Friday that killed seven Al-Qaeda militants, including a son of US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi.
“I think it is a response to the air strikes,” the official said.
The 320 kilometer gas pipeline links fields in Marib province further north with Balhaf in Shabwa.
Both provinces are strongholds of Al-Qaeda.
Yemen began exports of liquefied natural gas from the terminal in November 2009.
The impoverished nation had at the beginning of this year 478.5 billion cubic meters (around 17 trillion cubic feet) of proven reserves of natural gas, according to estimates.
(www.maannews.net / 15.10.2011)