Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh yesterday ordered his forces to offer “full protection” to anti-regime protesters and loyalists alike, after 16 people died in an uprising against his rule.
Saleh “instructed all security services to thwart all clashes and prevent direct confrontation between pro and anti-government protesters,” read an official statement.
The statement, published on the Yemeni state news agency SABA, demanded security services grant “full protection” to all demonstrators and urged protesters to “remain vigilant” against infiltrators seeking to ignite violence.
A bomb exploded during a protest march in the town of Lawdar, a hotbed of secessionist sentiment, in the southern province of Abyan, killing one person and wounding two, a local official said.
The death brought to 16 the number of fatalities in a wave of nationwide protests against Saleh’s 32-year rule since Feb. 16.
Early on Wednesday, two anti-government protesters were killed when government supporters opened fire on the Sanaa sit-in.
Violent clashes between anti-regime protesters and Saleh loyalists have taken place almost daily since the protests began, leaving scores of people hurt.
Hundreds of black-clad Yemeni women yesterday joined thousands of protesters who have been camping out since Sunday in an impromptu tent city outside Sana’a University.
Members of the university’s professors’ union also turned out yesterday to support the demonstrators, who have one demand: that Saleh step down.
While Saleh has resisted pressure to resign, on Feb. 2 he said he would not seek a new mandate when his term ends in 2013.
He also promised political reforms and shelved a plan for parliamentary elections that the opposition had denounced.
Ten MPs with Saleh’s General People’s Congress have resigned from parliament in protest at the government’s crackdown on the widening demonstrations, which have spread to the southern areas of Hadramawt and Aden.
Protests also surfaced in north Yemen this week, where tens of thousands demonstrated in Shiite rebel Huthi stronghold of Saada to demand the president step down.
Rights group Amnesty International has urged Saleh’s government to end its crackdown on anti-regime protesters and called for the release of Hassan Baoum, an opposition leader who was detained on Sunday and has since been held incommunicado.