Sunday, February 13, 2011
Police in Yemen crush protests against president Saleh
Protesters in San'a got the 'Hosni Mubarak treatment with sticks and tasers by pro-governement forces, or rather baltaga (thugs). (Photo AP).
Anti-government protesters clashed with police blocking them from marching to Yemen's presidential palace in Sanaa on Sunday. The clashes occurred while President Ali Abdallah Saleh and the main opposition group were preparing for talks that the government hoped would help avert an Egytian-style revolt.
Saleh decided to postpone a visit to the United States planned for later this month "due to the current circumstances in the region," the state news agency Saba said without elaborating. About 1,000 people attended the demonstration shouting 'the Yemeni people want the fall of the regime' and "a Yemeni revolution after the Egyptian revolution," before dozens broke off to march to the palace.
In the harshest response yet to a wave of protests in the capital, police prevented the smaller group from reaching the palace, hitting them with batons, while protesters threw rocks at the police, witnesses said. Four people were injured.
Anti-government protests have gained momentum in Yemen in recent weeks, inspired by protests in Tunsia and Egypt. They prompted Saleh to offer concessions to calm tensions, including a pledge to step down in 2013. The protests included a 'Day of Rage' on February 3 attended by tens of thousands.
On the morning of Friday February 11, students and activists staged an anti-government demonstration in front of the new university in Sanaa, the capital. It grew to the hundreds as onlookers and passersby joined the protesters, who called for Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to resign. Yemeni security forces arrested one youth who was writing slogans for the protesters. Pro-government thugs carrying sticks then arrived. Known locally as “baltaga,” they clashed with the demonstrators. The anti-government protesters headed towards the old university, where they were met by additional security forces.
On Qasr Street, demonstrators were confronted by dozens more balataga who carried clubs, axes, the traditional Yemeni daggers called jambia, and electroshock tasers. According to eyewitnesses, the balataga assaulted the demonstrators. Later that same day many demonstations took place in several of Yemen's provinces to celebrate the fall of the Egyptian President Mubarak. In Sana'a, tens of thousands of demonstrations celebrated in the streets, saluting the Egyptian people’s move. In Aden, Taiz, Hadramaut, and all provinces also thousands of protesters staged demonstrations.