Last Updated: Mon Apr 04, 2011 12:51 pm (KSA) 09:51 am (GMT)

15 protesters killed, hundreds hurt in Yemen clashes

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh waving to his supporters during a rally in Sanaa
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh waving to his supporters during a rally in Sanaa

Yemeni soldiers shot dead at least fifteen protesters and wounded hundreds of others in a second day of bloody clashes with demonstrators in the city of Taez, south of the capital, witnesses and medical sources said.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators were marching on the governorate headquarters in Taez, 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Sanaa, when the army opened fire from different directions, witnesses said.

Medical sources said that there are hundreds of injured people.

Earlier, police using live rounds and tear gas wounded more than 400 protesters who tried to march to a presidential palace in Yemen's Red Sea city of Hudaida, as reports said that President Barack Obama's administration has shifted position on President Ali Abdullah Saleh and now believes he should leave office.

Witnesses said that armed men in civilian clothes opened fire on protesters.

The presidential palace in Hudaida is one of several homes kept by Saleh, 68, around the country. He was most likely at the presidential palace in capital Sanaa on Monday.

US long support to Saleh

 The Americans have been pushing for transfer of power since the beginning 
A Yemeni official

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the United States has concluded Saleh will not likely enact reforms demanded by opposition protesters and must be eased out of office.

Washington has long supported Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, and the administration of President Obama has largely refrained from criticizing him in public.

But U.S. officials have told allies that they see Saleh's position as untenable due to the widespread protests, and believe he should leave office.

Negotiations over Saleh's departure began more than a week ago, the newspaper reported, citing U.S. and Yemeni officials.

The United States has talked openly of its concern about who might succeed Saleh, whom it views as an ally who has helped to contain al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based wing of the militant group.

Saleh has said he was prepared to leave eventually but that an abrupt exit would cause chaos.

Washington's goal is for the U.S. counterterrorism operation in Yemen to remain unaffected, the Times reported.

"Groups of various stripes – al-Qaeda, Houthis, tribal elements, and secessionists -- are exploiting the current political turbulence and emerging fissures within the military and security services for their own gain," an unnamed U.S. official told the Times.

Saleh's possible departure

A defected Yemeni soldier holds up his weapon

A Yemeni official was cited as saying negotiations with Saleh on the terms of his possible departure began a little over a week ago, after gunmen linked to the government killed more than 50 protesters at a rally on Mar. 18.

"The Americans have been pushing for transfer of power since the beginning" of the negotiations which were still in progress, the official told the newspaper.

Under an opposition plan, the army and security forces would be restructured by a vice president acting as temporary president, the opposition coalition said Saturday.

Sources say Saleh wants to ensure he and his family do not face prosecution over corruption claims that the opposition has talked about.

Yemeni police on Sunday killed an anti-regime protester and wounded scores more on, medics and witnesses said, as Saleh called for an end to protests demanding that he step down.

The protestor's death took the toll to nearly 100 from the crackdown on protests that erupted in the Arabian Peninsula country in late January, according to international human rights watchdogs.

(Compiled by Abeer Tayel)

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