Sanaa, Feb 15 (IANS) At least 17 people were injured and 165 arrested Monday during various clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in Yemen’s capital Sanaa and the southern province of Taiz.
The clashes in Sanaa erupted when thousands of demonstrators, including students and lawyers, marched through the city and attempted to enter the downtown square Al-Tahrir, and they were stopped by about 2,000 armed paramilitary forces deployed there.
The paramilitary troops and policemen used electroshock tasers, batons and daggers to disperse the demonstrators, injuring seven of them and arresting 15 others, Xinhua reported quoting witnesses.
“Policemen in plainclothes chased me and beat me up and dragged me into a car which belongs to a governmental official,” Mohammed Ghurab, a local reporter told Xinhua, “They accused me of working against the government and held me for a while as they asked me a lot of questions before they released me.”
In Taiz, 10 protesters were injured and around 150 detained following a clash between several thousands of anti-government demonstrators and security forces.
“The demonstrators managed to drive security forces away and occupied the Taiz’s main square,” a local councilman was quoted as saying. “The demonstrators are still gathering in the square as security forces surrounded the area.”
The demonstrators have been calling for the ouster of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in office for 33 years.
According to DPA, Saleh had promised last week that he will not seek another term in office after his current tenure ends in 2013.
Saleh will also postpone parliamentary elections scheduled for April until talks with the opposition on reforms of the electoral system are concluded.
Although the opposition coalition announced Sunday that they had agreed to the political reforms offered by Saleh and voiced readiness to engage in national dialogue with the ruling party, demonstrations still gained momentum in the country
DPA reported that the demonstrators chanted some of the same slogans used during public unrest in Egypt, which eventually led to the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak last week – “The people want the regime to fall” and, to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, “Get lost”.
Eyewitnesses said they were met by several hundred counter-protesters, who initially only held aloft pictures of the president but then reportedly attacked with knives and canes. The demonstrators fled to the grounds of the capital’s university.