Yemeni forces shoot at protesters


‘March for Life’ demonstrators killed and others wounded as security forces try to stop marchers headed for the palace.
The “March for Life” rally from Taiz to the capital began on Tuesday

Yemeni security forces in Sanaa have shot at protesters marching against President Ali Abdullah Saleh as they headed for the presidential palace, witnesses and a medic said.

Forces reportedly killed three protesters and wounded dozens more when they opened fire to stop the tens of thousands who set off from the southern city of Taiz on Tuesday for the 270km march to the capital.

The demonstrators, part of the “March for Life” rally, arrived in Sanaa in mid-afternoon on Saturday but were blocked in a southern suburb, witnesses said.

A medic, Mohammed el-Qoutbi, said one of the dead was a woman, and more than 30 people were injured by gunshots and tear gas after powerful Republican Guard forces cracked down on protesters demanding the outgoing president be put on trial.

Activist Waddad al-Dhalie said that a number of female protesters were also injured with bullets and tear gas.

Shots rang out as the activists entered the city chanting “No to immunity”, said residents of Sanaa.

The protesters were referring to a deal granting Saleh immunity from prosecution for his part in a violent crackdown on
months of demonstrations against his 33-year rule.

The immunity agreement, crafted by Yemen’s wealthier neighbours in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), was designed to ease Saleh out of power and avert civil war.

Immunity deal

Police and soldiers deployed in force backed by armour, and used tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition to halt the marchers, whose ranks were swelled by residents of the capital.

Protesters, many of them young, chanted “For shame, the blood of the martyrs has been sold for dollars”, referring to
the immunity deal, which was endorsed by a coalition of opposition parties that are part of the interim government.

Witnesses said troops loyal to Saleh spread out across the entrances of streets leading to his compound to block any attempt by protesters to approach it. Later in the day, marchers retreated and headed towards Change Square, a rallying point for the protests which began in January, they added.

Tanks, troops and armoured vehicles were deployed around the presidential compound.

Protesters want to purge the government of members of Saleh’s family, who still hold key posts in the military and
security forces.

Under the GCC deal, Saleh agreed to transfer his powers to his deputy. An interim government will prepare the country for an election to replace him in February, and has promised to separate pro-Saleh troops from militiamen loyal to tribal leaders and rebel army units in Sanaa and elsewhere.

If he goes, Saleh would be the fourth leader to surrender power after mass protests that have redrawn the political map in North African and the Middle East.

( / 24.12.2011)

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