Mon, Mar 14, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Death toll from Yemen violence rises

DEADLY PROTEST:Witnesses said that police snipers fired on demonstrators from rooftops in the city of Aden overnight, where two protesters were killed on Saturday


Protesters shout slogans calling for the ouster of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana’a on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

The death toll from violence in Yemen rose to seven yesterday as police allegedly fired on protesters from rooftops, drawing condemnation from the UN and EU.

Six demonstrators were shot in the head during bloody clashes with police overnight in the southern city of Aden, with two dying of their wounds, medical sources said.

The deaths brought the toll since Saturday to seven as pro-democracy opposition groups and students escalated their campaign to oust autocratic Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 32 years in power.

Britain, the EU and the UN condemned the crackdown in the country, where US special forces are helping train local units engaged against al-Qaeda’s offshoot in the Arabian Peninsula.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the “excessive use of force” against peaceful demonstrators and urged all sides to engage in dialogue, his spokesman said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement released late on Saturday that the violence against demonstrators was “unacceptable” and called on all British citizens to leave the country.

“The United Kingdom remains seriously concerned over repeated clashes with protesters and reports of intimidation of journalists in recent days,” Hague said in the statement. “This is in direct contradiction to the president’s recent announcement on constitutional reform and fresh elections, which we have welcomed.”

In a speech to tens of thousands of people at a stadium in the capital Sana’a on Thursday, Saleh promised to protect protesters from violence and offered to hold a referendum on a new constitution which would devolve power to parliament.

The US, which sees Saleh as a pillar of stability in the deeply tribal nation, has welcomed the gesture, but Yemen’s parliamentary opposition says the president has lost all credibility and must resign this year.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton slammed the latest violent crackdown on protesters, which takes the total toll from weeks of bloody unrest to about 40.

She urged the government to stand by Saleh’s promises to protect demonstrators and uphold their right to free assembly.

“Urgent, concrete and credible measures are now needed to meet the aspirations of the Yemeni people,” she said, adding all sides had to cool down and “embark on a meaningful and genuine dialogue process.”

Witnesses said police snipers were firing on demonstrators from rooftops in the southern city of Aden overnight, where two protesters were killed on Saturday and a police station was set ablaze.

In Sana’a, opposition groups said a man was shot by a sniper on Saturday as he walked toward University Square, the main cauldron of unrest and the site of a pro-democracy tent city.

Thousands more demonstrators demanding democratic reform, jobs and an end to corruption poured into the square overnight.

Streets to the square were blocked with tents, many flying flags and other symbols denoting the provinces of demonstrators who have come from around the country to join the opposition movement.

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