Middle East
Shots fired at Yemen demonstration
Leader of Yemen's separatist movement arrested in Aden amid countrywide protests.
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2011 17:30 GMT
Protesters are seeking to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda [Al Jazeera]

Shots have been fired at a demonstration in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as anti-government protests in the impoverished Arab country entered their 11th consecutive day.

Thousands of people also staged sit-ins in the cities of Ibb and Taiz on Sunday, demanding the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who renewed his call for opposition parties to pursue a dialogue with the government.

Saleh, a US ally battling a resurgent al-Qaeda wing based in Yemen, has held power for 32 years in an Arabian Peninsula state that faces soaring unemployment, dwindling oil and water reserves, and chronic unrest in northern and southern provinces.

Amid the ongoing turmoil, authorities have detained a leader of the separatist Southern Movement in Aden.

Hasan Baoum was arrested in the southern port city by an "armed military group" in a hospital where he was receiving treatment and was taken to an unknown location, his youngest son Fadi Hasan Baoum told the Reuters news agency.

Sanaa protest

Baoum was also arrested in November last year, accused of planning illegal demonstrations.

Protests continue even as Saleh promised not to seek re-election when his term comes to an end in 2013 [Reuters]

Security in Aden was stepped up on Sunday with tanks and armoured vehicles out on the city's main streets.

In the capital, as many as 50 government supporters tried to break up a demonstration outside Sanaa University by more than 3,000 protesters.

Marching students chanted and carried signs reading: "Get out Ali for the sake of future generations".

A Saleh supporter fired shots from an assault rifle but there were no reported casualties and the government supporters soon dispersed, while the protesters continued their demonstration chanting, "Leave, Ali!"

Both sides fired weapons on Saturday outside the university - the first reported use of firearms by demonstrators.

Five soldiers were wounded on Saturday evening in Khormaksar and Sheikh Othman when protesters clashed with security forces, a local official and witnesses said on Sunday.

Blame game

In the southern city of Ibb, around 1,000 protesters set up camp in Freedom Square waving banners which read "Leave" and "The people want the fall of the regime", witnesses said.

In Taiz, thousands continued a sit-in for the 11th straight day. Twelve Yemeni human rights organisations demanded the sacking and trials of security officials in Aden, Sanaa and Taiz because of their role in attacks against demonstrators, according to a statement seen by Reuters.

Saleh on Sunday renewed his call for opposition parties to continue their dialogue and blamed the last two days of protests, in which five people were killed, on "elements outside the system and the law".

"Dialogue is the best way. Not sabotage. Not blocking the roads," he told tribal, military and civil leaders in Sanaa.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Sanaa, said Saleh's message to the pro-democracy protesters is clear: "There is no way he can allow them to bring about change by taking to the streets".

"The government has also been saying, over the last few days, that calls for independence in the South won't be tolerated," he said.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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