Yemeni security forces have killed at least 26 protesters and injured 500 others in the capital Sana’a on Sunday as they tried to break up one of the largest demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh in recent months, Al Arabiya correspondent said.
Security forces opened fire on the crowds and sprayed them with tear gas as tens of thousands spilled out of Change Square, where many youths have been camping out, demanding an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule.
Dozens of men were slumped on the ground, overcome by tear-gas inhalation. Men on motorbikes and ambulances whisked them away from the scene, according to Reuters.
The Defense Ministry said on its website that protesters threw petrol bombs, setting a police car ablaze. It blamed the leading Islamist opposition party, Islah, for opening fire on the march.
Frustrated by Saleh’s tenacity and their failure to dislodge him, protesters are seeking to intensify demonstrations, which have dragged into their eighth month.
“Escalation, escalation,” they chanted, flooding side streets, where there were large numbers of security forces and armed anti-Saleh tribesmen, who have appointed themselves as defenders of Yemen’s protest movement.
Heavy shelling targeted the area surrounding the home of a powerful Yemeni dissident tribal chief in Sana’a Sunday as his office and authorities exchanged blame over the violence.
Troops loyal to Saleh opened fire using machine guns and are firing mortar rounds on the area surrounding Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar’s home in al-Hasaba district, said a source from the tribal chief’s home.
The shelling, which began in the afternoon, also targeted Al-Mazda road in the district’s center, prompting people there to flee the area, witnesses said.
“The shelling is targeting us from several directions but we have not responded, as sheikh Sadiq has given us orders not to respond,” the source, who spoke from Ahmar’s home, told AFP.
But Yemen’s minister of interior, Motahar Rashad al-Masri, said that “Ahmar’s gunmen, deployed on rooftops, opened fire on the ministry of interior and policemen who were having their lunch.”
The troops “responded only to silence the source of fire,” he added. “We are committed to self-restraint based on the orders of vice president” Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Ahmar’s office accused troops loyal to Saleh, who has been recovering in Riyadh from bomb blast wounds since June, of firing six mortar rounds late on Friday at the tribal chief’s home.