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Yemen: Crackdown on Protestors Continues

On Monday, the Yemeni cities of Taiz and Hudaida were the scene of bloody crackdown by security forces on peaceful anti-government protestors. Once again, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni president for the past 32 years, responded with force and live bullets to protestors calling for his immediate removal.

Reuters reports that in Taiz, at least 15 people were killed and 30 wounded when police opened fire. In Hudaida, demonstrators gathered to show their solidarity to the people of Taiz, but they ended up with the same fate as their compatriots in Taiz when police and armed men in civilian clothes shot at them. Eye witnesses also said that they saw snipers on roofs shooting at protestors.

Protester takes part in the funeral of Abdullah Hamid al-Jaify, an anti-government activist killed in clashes with the police, in March 2011 in Sana'a, Yemen. Image by Giulio Petrocco, copyright Demotix (11/03/11).

Protester takes part in the funeral of Abdullah Hamid al-Jaify, an anti-government activist killed in clashes with the police, in March 2011 in Sana'a, Yemen. Image by Giulio Petrocco, copyright Demotix (11/03/11).

Eman (@Emy_Al) tweets:

اليمن تدخل أسوء مراحل ثورتها..أخشى أن يتكرر سيناريو ليبيا فيها !!

Yemen enters its worst revolutionay phase..I'm afraid that the Libyan scenario will be repeated in Yemen

Ghada Mohamed (@Ghada__Mohamad) tweets:

اليمن اليوم ..جرائم جديدة لعلي صالح

Yemen today.. new crimes for Ali Saleh

Situation in Taiz and Hudaida

Nasser Arrabyee, a Yemeni journalist based in Sana'a describes the situation in Taiz and Hudaida:

At least three protesters were killed and tens others injured Monday when security forces tried to prevent angry protesters from storming the Presidential Palace and the government buildings of the local authority of Taiz province.
The sources, who are participating in the marches, said the clashes are continuing as protesters are insisting on marching and surrounding the government buildings. “I myself saw one protester dead in the hospital,” said Riyadh Al Adeeb, journalist and activist in Taiz.

He adds:

In coastal city of Hudieda in the west of the country, clashes between security forces and angry protesters are also continuing.
“The new thing today and yesterday is that the protesters are marching in the streets and not sitting in their sit-in places,” the protester Abdul Hafez Al Nehari, one of the leading protesters in Hudeida, said. “About 400 were injured by the tear gas used by the security forces today and yesterday,” Al Nehari added.
The protesters seem to be planning for marching forward and surrounding the important government buildings, in an escalation step to press Saleh to step down.

Graphic Youtube videos

On Monday two youtube videos have been circulating the net. The first one shows protestors running away as the sound of gun shots is heard.

The second one which is extremely graphic, shows an injured man shot in his neck in pain.

US pressure on Saleh to step down

On Sunday, April 3, the New York Times reports that the US administration has dropped its support for Ali Abdullah Saleh, a major ally for the US its war against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. “The United States, which long supported Yemen’s president, even in the face of recent widespread protests, has now quietly shifted positions and has concluded that he is unlikely to bring about the required reforms and must be eased out of office, according to American and Yemeni officials.” reports the New York Times.
WessalMubasher reports:

البيت الأبيض: جهود مكافحة الإرهاب مع اليمن لا تعتمد على شخص واحد (…)

The White House: the effort to combat terrorism with Yemen does not depend on a single person

Gregory Johnsen analyzes:

It is unfortunate that the Obama administration's policy only began “to shift in the past week.” Salih's demise has been self-evident for much longer than that, and consistent US refusals to see that and the resulting dithering and calls for negotiations (asking protesters to give up the only leverage they have) has only put U.S. security interests more at risk.

He adds:

I'm not sure if the US asked itself this question or if it just came to the conclusion that no matter what it did Salih was on his way out, I suspect the latter, but have no inside information.

We should be clear, both scenarios – Salih leaving or staying – are potentially dangerous for US national security, which is one of the reasons the Obama administration is so hesitant to withdraw its support from Salih.

If Salih leaves the US is worried that the next government won't be as willing to meet US requests in fighting al-Qaeda as Salih has been in the past 14 months (because when journalists talk about Salih being an ally of the US in the war against AQAP this is the period they are referring to).

If, on the other hand, Salih stays, in the current environment it would likely take him several months to reassert control over much of the country that he has lost in recent weeks if he ever could, meaning that AQAP would not be as opposed as it has been.

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