At least 150 people were wounded as Yemeni security forces tried to break up a rally in the Red Sea city of Hudaida demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule, a doctor and witnesses said on Wednesday. The impoverished Arabian peninsula state, neighbour to Saudi Arabia, has been hit by weeks of protests trying to end Saleh’s 32-year grip on power. Pro- and anti-government factions have increasingly resorted to violence in the struggle.
A doctor treating protesters at a sit-in in Hudaida said hundreds of security forces and plainclothes police, all armed, attacked the demonstrators. “They attacked the protesters and wounded around 120 people,” he said. “They were using teargas, rubber bullets, live fire and bats.”
Demonstrators said they were calling on private hospitals to send ambulances and asked Yemenis to donate blood to help treat the wounded. One protester said mostly plainclothes police had attacked the sit-in. “Special forces, central security forces and police, most of them in civilian clothing, are surrounding the protesters,” said Mohammed Muajem. “The main hospital is now at full capacity.”
Two protesters said some of the wounded demonstrators were attacked by security forces in hospital, but this could not be immediately verified. The US, which has long seen Saleh as a bulwark against an aggressive and agile al-Qaida wing based in Yemen, has condemned the bloodshed and backed the right to peaceful protest. It has also insisted only dialogue can end the political crisis.
In a further escalation on Wednesday, a leading activist in Taiz said plainclothes police targeted and beat women at a rally in the city, 200km (125 miles) south of capital Sana’a. At least 11 were wounded, a demonstrator said.