Yemen’s opposition yesterday called for escalating protests as the president said from a Saudi hospital that a Gulf power transfer plan he refused to sign is the solution to his country’s political turmoil.
The Common Forum parliamentary opposition in a statement urged “escalating the peaceful revolt to oust what’s left of this gang… to end its kidnap of power which is the right of the people alone.”
It urged Yemenis to “refer it (President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime) to justice to take its deterrent punishment for the crimes it has committed against our people that have not stopped until this minute.”
The statement came as Yemen’s elite Republican Guard, led by Saleh’s son Ahmed, shelled a neighbourhood of the opposition stronghold of Taez, killing two civilians and wounding 10, residents said.
Protesters have been calling since January for Saleh to quit office after more than three decades in power.
Saleh, hospitalised in Riyadh, appeared on Thursday for the first time since he was wounded in a blast at his palace in early June and said Sunday that “the Gulf initiative and the UN statement are the platforms to exit the current crisis.”
On April 8, Saleh rejected a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plan for his departure, which would have seen an opposition-led national unity government.
Saleh yesterday also renewed his calls for “a national dialogue that would include all political forces which would… preserve Yemen’s unity, security and stability,” the defence ministry website reported.
The president, in power since 1978, has repeatedly stalled the GCC initiative that would see him step aside 30 days after it was signed in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The opposition agreed to the proposal.
Yemeni security forces and government supporters have carried out bloody attacks on protesters, while opposition tribesmen are also battling government forces in the capital Sanaa and elsewhere, and some military units have defected to the opposition.
Meanwhile, four militants and one soldier were killed in a clash in southern Yemen yesterday.
The September 26 government website said the clash took place in the town of Zinjibar in Abyan province, but it gave no more details.
Residents of the main southern city of Aden also reported clashes in districts of Dar Saad when militants attacked an army patrol and Al Hiswa when security forces hit two civilians while pursuing suspected militants. No deaths were reported.
The Yemeni government has said militants are taking advantage of a security vacuum with the president convalescing in Saudi Arabia by stepping up operations in the southern flashpoint province of Abyan.
Opposition parties say the government has reduced security in Abyan to allow militants more sway as a means of backing up their argument to their Western and Gulf backers that Al Qaeda could gain a bigger foothold if Saleh is pushed out.
Human Rights Watch has accused the military of killing dozens of civilians in unlawful attacks while fighting such militants.
In recent months, militants have seized two cities in Abyan, including its capital, Zanzibar. Some 54,000 Yemenis have fled Abyan since then, a government official said this month.
Meanwhile, in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Saleh met a top US counter-terrorism official, state television reported yesterday.
Yemeni television aired footage of Saleh receiving US President Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan at the military hospital in the Saudi capital.
Saleh seemed in much better shape in the latest footage than in a pre-recorded speech aired on Thursday in which he sat stiffly and looked badly burned.
Yesterday’s footage showed the 69-year-old wearing a suit, gloves, and slippers, moving his hands and feet but with burn marks still visible on his face.