Protesters square off with armed forces in Yemen

Monday, February 14, 2011

SANA - Young Yemeni protesters have reportedly squared off against security forces, with some marching to the presidential palace in Sana in the hope of repeating and emulating the revolution in Egypt.

The protests, organized largely via text message, were the largest yet by young Yemenis, with more than 1,000 marching, the New York Times reports.

A rift appears to be brewing between Yemeni youth and opposition groups in the wake of previous demonstrations wresting significant concessions from beleagured President Ali Abdullah Saleh, including the promise that he would relinquish power in 2013.

Leaders of established opposition groups did not join the crowd on Sunday, which has called for the immediate ouster of Saleh.

On Sunday, demonstrators wereh violently repulsed by armed security forces both uniformed and in plain clothes, some armed with stun guns, witnesses said.

There were reports of several injuries, but no deaths.

The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), a coalition of opposition parties has said that it will continue to press for a change of leadership in Yemen.

Unlike the earlier protests in Yemen, which were highly organized and marked by color-coordinated clothing and signs, the spontaneity of the younger demonstrators appeared to have more in common with popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, where opposition groups watched from the sidelines as leaderless revolts grew into revolutions.

The opposition coalition said at a news conference in Sana on Sunday that it welcomed the new street protests, but cautioned that the situation could quickly escalate if mass uprisings took hold in Yemen, a country with a well-armed populace.

President Saleh, an important ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism, has in recent weeks sought to counter a rising tide of opposition and preserve his three-decade rule by raising army salaries, halving income taxes and ordering price controls, among other concessions.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has urged Saleh to enter into a dialogue with the opposition in the interest of preserving stability in Yemen.

The opposition coalition has said it would be willing to restart talks with the ruling party if specific conditions were met, like including members of the southern separatist movement in the dialogue.

It remained unclear to what degree a widening popular uprising could set off renewed armed clashes in the south. Protests across the south have been notably more violent than those in the country’s north. (ANI)

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