x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Anti-Saleh protesters flee tear gas as rubber bullets kill one

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh calls for dialogue but opposition says it will not talk until he agrees to leave this year.

Medics treat an injured anti-government protester at a makeshift clinic outside Sana'a University.
Medics treat an injured anti-government protester at a makeshift clinic outside Sana'a University.

SANA'A // A demonstrator was killed and 83 others were injured when Yemeni security and army forces opened fire with rubber-coated bullets and sprayed tear gas at protesters in the capital on Tuesday evening.

Seven other patients were in critical condition, said Abdulmalik al Yusufi, a physician. "Some suffered from a spasm which shows that the gas used is fatal and prohibited," Dr al Yusufi said.

Mohammed Ali Mutlak, 24, died yesterday in the hospital of his gunshot wounds, according to medics.

The violence erupted as protesters moved to set up additional tents at the Change Square where thousands have camped out for three weeks, demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down. About 26 people have been killed in four weeks of protests.

Police and soldiers stopped protesters but began shooting and firing tear gas into the crowd, which included hundreds of women and children, when the protesters began chanting anti-Saleh slogans.

Sayaf Murshid, 20, who was lying at the medical tent at the site with an injured left hand, said: "They have attacked us with gunfire and tear gas. It was a terrible situation where women and kids rushed into a nearby mosque. I fainted and found myself here four hours later."

The government and the parliament said they would set up committees to investigate the violence.

The opposition strongly condemned the attack, blaming Mr Saleh. "The authority, represented by the president, is responsible for this crime committed by forces from the central security and Republican guards [an elite regiment] against the protesting youths," Mohammed Kahtan, an opposition spokesman, said in a statement.

The Houthi rebels who have been fighting an intermittent war since 2004 in north Yemen also condemned the attack and, in an e-mail to media, called for community groups to join to topple the regime.

Tens of thousands protested yesterday in different parts of the country and vowed they would continue their sit-ins and protests until Mr Saleh, who has been in power for 33 years, resigns.

In Sana'a, thousands gathered at the site of the attack yesterday, vowing they will not give up. Army Colonel Mohammed al Olofi told the crowd that the army will not kill protesters. "I am here to … tell you that honest military people will never kill you and will protect you. I do urge all army personnel to act like the Egyptian army and stand by the people," said Col al Olofi. "Our message to president Saleh is that, if he is serious about reforms, he should fire all his sons from power. This is the last chance, otherwise, he will be deported on a boat," Col al Olofi said.

Meanwhile, demonstrators have issued a 13-member blacklist of those accused of killing and inciting the violent crackdown. The list includes the son of Mr Saleh, Ahmed, commander of the Republican Guards, as well as two nephews of Mr Saleh who run the police and special guards, and the interior minister. The list also includes leaders in the ruling party, governors and security officials who the statement said have led "the ruling party thugs" attacks against the protests.

Mr Saleh has said he will not run for re-election after his terms ends in 2012 and would not try to transfer power to his son. He has also proposed a national unity government, an idea rejected by the opposition.

On Monday, he called for a national dialogue, convening a conference for today and inviting thousands of representatives from across Yemen's political spectrum, the state Saba news agency reported. However, the opposition said there would be no dialogue unless Mr Saleh agreed to step down this year.

malqadhi@thenational.ae