Yemeni protesters wounded

As many as 500 injured, some critically, as security forces open fire on pro-democracy demonstrators across the country.

    Hundreds of protesters demanding that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh end his more than 30-year-old rule were wounded in clashes with security forces in the capital Sanaa and the city of Taiz as pro-democracy rallies continue.

    Riot police with batons were out in force late Saturday, using tear gas and live fire against protesters in the capital, Al Jazeera's special correspondent there reported.

    "There have been at least 200 injured according to one medical source, and around 15 of those injuries are from live ammunition," she said.

    "There were more than three hours of the constant sound of tear gas being fired, and live ammunition being fired. I could also see that there were snipers positioned on rooftops and they were firing down at the crowd."

    Our correspondent said the streets were littered with rocks and gas canisters, as police confrontations with tens of thousands of anti-government protesters continued in the capital.

    In Taiz, the other main protest area, security police also used live ammunition and tear gas against some of the 100,000 people who marched there on Saturday.

    "We have reports [in Taiz] of over 500 people injured, 40 of those from live ammunition and at least five people are in critical condition," our correspondent said.

    She reported a "very heavy handed approach by the authorities" and an upsurge in violence in towns across Yemen.

    "The police are becoming increasingly intolerant of protesters. It seems [president] Ali Abdullah Saleh is once again really trying to show his force."

    Envoy recalled

    More than two dozen Yemenis were wounded by gunfire during Friday's opposition protests in Taiz [Reuters]

    The fresh protests came as Yemen recalled its envoy from Qatar over a dispute on a Gulf Arab plan for Saleh to step down.

    Saba, the official Yemeni news agency, on Saturday said the ambassador was recalled for consultation on the recent statement made by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem about the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council's (GCC) offer of mediation between Saleh and the opposition.

    The GCC proposed that Saleh hand over power to his deputy in return for immunity from prosecution for him and his family.

    Saleh rejected the offer in a speech before tens of thousands of cheering supporters in the capital Sanaa on Friday.

    Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators also gathered  on Friday to call for Saleh's immediate ouster.

    Calls for departure

    Saleh initially accepted an offer by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states trying to broker an end to bloody protests and hold talks with the opposition.

    But he later rejected the plan for his exit in a speech broadcast on state television on Friday.

    "We were born free, and we have free will, and they have to respect our wishes. We reject any coup against democracy, the constitution and our freedom," he told supporters in Sanaa on Friday.


    Saleh said: "Our power comes from the power of our great people, not from Qatar, not from anyone else. This is blatant interference in Yemeni affairs."

    Our correspondent in Sanaa said: "Saleh addressed his supporters to make a total rejection of the offer put forward by the Gulf Co-operation Council.

    "He singled out Qatar and Al Jazeera and said, 'We don't have to follow their agenda'."

    Al Jazeera's correspondent was stopped and searched near the ongoing protests in the capital on Saturday. She was briefly detained for 10 minutes, and then allowed to leave.

    "Lots of men holding guns and lots of other people just wearing civilian clothes came towards me," she said of the incident.

    "They took my phone; they started shouting saying that I was a spy, and that I was filming ... the soldiers told me that I was not allowed to film. They took things off me; they searched me; they held the gun to my stomach. It was a very threatening environment."

    More than 120 people have been killed since Yemen's protests calling for an end to Saleh's rule began on February 11, inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt which toppled long-serving leaders.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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