Fighting erupts in Yemen amid protests

Security forces and army defectors clash in Sanaa after protesters reject deal signed by Saleh to transfer power.

Officials in Yemen say heavy fighting broke out in the Yemeni capital between security forces and army defectors despite the signing of a recent deal to transfer power.

One man from each side was killed in Friday’s clashes in Sanaa, a military official said.

Central security forces under the command of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s nephew battled the army’s First Armoured Division, led by a general who defected to the opposition in March, the official said.

The protests in Sanaa and Taiz follows Saleh’s signing of a deal, brokered by the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council, transferring power in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Many protesters reject the deal – under which Saleh will leave the president’s office in 30 days.- and demand that Saleh stand trial.

Five protesters were killed in Sanaa on Thursday as government loyalists dressed in plain clothes reportedly opened fire on the protesters from rooftops and moving cars.

Al Jazeera’s special correspondent, reporting from Sanaa on Friday, said the protests went off peacefully and that the clashes had occurred in a different part of the city.

“The protests have gone off peacefully. But obviously, the crowds are very angry here. The fighting has been happening in separate area of the city. That violence has been going on all week, and we have seen outbreaks of fire.

“Today, we haven’t had reports of protesters being shot.”

Demanding trial

Abdo Al Janadai, Yemen’s deputy minister of information, told Al Jazeera the implementation of the power-transfer had begun already.

“The vice president is now having full powers and support by the president to implement the gulf initiative.

“For sure, there are some demonstrations and protesters in the streets, which is against the initiative. They [opposition] need to talk to the people in the streets and stop what they are doing,” Janadai said.

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Inspired by uprising across the Middle East and North Africa, demonstrators have been demanding an end to Saleh’s 33-year-long rule since January.

After backtracking on several occasions, Saleh finally signed a deal on Wednesday to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who is expected to preside over a national unity government.

Saleh will retain the honorary title of president until new elections take place within 90 days.

Hadi will have to negotiate a power transfer with the opposition in return for a promise of immunity from prosecution for Saleh and his family, a concession that has angered activists.

“The blood of the martyrs which has thrown you out of power, Saleh, will throw you in prison,” Fuad al-Hanjari, a preacher, told thousands of activists after funerals in Sanaa on Friday for four of the slain protesters.

Referring to the proposed power transfer, our correspondent said: “Some opposition members have backtracked, saying we are with the youth and we want to see Saleh on trial. Right now, there is a bit of a confusion on who is and who is not supporting the deal.

“These demonstrators are putting the parties that signed the deal in an awkward position.”

(www.aljazeera.com / 25.11.2011)

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