Yemeni death toll rises as protests continue

Pro-Saleh forces open fire on protesters, killing a woman and wounding several other people.

    Anti-government protesters gathered to demonstrate against the immunity clause in the transition plan[EPA]

    Forces loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh have shot dead one woman and wounded six other people when they opened fire on a crowd of protesters in the city of Taiz, medics said.

    The protest was over an immunity clause in the Gulf-sponsored transition plan which Saleh signed last month to hand power over to his deputy, Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

    "Taghrid Hammoud, died after being hit by a bullet, and six protesters, including two women, were also wounded by gunfire," a medical official said on Monday.

    The medic said that a 65-year-old among the wounded was in a serious condition. 

    Anti-Saleh tribesmen brandishing Kalashnikov rifles and members of the Republican Guard, led by Saleh's son Ahmed, were still on many of Taiz's streets, witnesses said.

    Tanks, armoured vehicles and opposition fighters left some areas of Taiz, a hub of 10 months of unrest against Saleh's
    33-year rule, but gunmen and snipers remained and had fired on demonstrators, witnesses said.

    "Both sides violated the ceasefire agreement. We were marching peacefully and they (Saleh's forces) shot at us yet
    again," medical student Hamoud al-Aklamy said.

    Both sides had pulled out of parts of the city on the orders of a committee of legislators, set up by acting head of state Hadi this weekend, to try to end fighting that has killed at least 20 since Thursday.

    Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the centre of Taiz, some 200 km south of the capital Sanaa, to protest against attacks on peaceful protesters.

    Elsewhere in the country's south, government forces on Monday shelled sites held by Islamist fighters near Zinjibar,
    killing four of them, a local official said.

    The official said the shelling came after the fighters ambushed pro-government tribal fighters and wounded two of them.

    Islamist fighters have seized three cities in Yemen's south since March, including Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province.

    Taiz fighting

    The attempts to end clashes in Taiz came less than two weeks after Saleh signed a deal to hand over power to his deputy as part of a Gulf initiative by Yemen's wealthy Arab neighbours to end protests there.

    Activists blamed Monday's attacks on Saleh, who they say was determined to assert his control over the army despite the accord that made him a ceremonial president with no real powers.

    "Saleh said he transferred his authority to the vice president, but this is a game. We won't have a new government
    until half of Taiz is dead," said Aklamy.

    Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Basindwa, an opposition leader who is to form a unity government with Saleh's General People's Congress party, has said he would rethink his commitments under the deal if fighting in Taiz did not stop. 

    Although the violence had eased since Sunday, witnesses heard at least six explosions in the city on Monday. 

    Political crisis has frequently halted the modest oil exports Yemen uses to finance imports of basic foodstuffs, and ushered in what aid agencies deem a humanitarian crisis. 

    More than 100,000 people have been displaced by military conflicts in both the north and south. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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