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Old Thursday, April 28, 2011
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Default Yemen unrest: Protesters 'shot dead' in Sanaa

27 April 2011 Last updated at 17:34 GMT
Yemeni security forces have opened fire on protesters in the capital, Sanaa, killing at least nine people, witnesses and doctors say.

They say about 100 people were also injured in the shooting. It comes a day after the government and opposition agreed to sign a deal soon under which President Ali Abdullah Saleh would step down within 30 days.But many people across Yemen are angry the president will get immunity under the agreement, correspondents say.Yemeni troops and plain-clothes police opened fire when anti-government demonstrators tried to reach an area beyond the district of Sanaa where protesters have been camped for weeks, witnesses say.Many of the dead and wounded had gunshot wounds to the head and torso, one local doctor told the Associated Press news agency.A number of bodies were taken to hospital.More than 130 people have been killed by security forces and supporters of Mr Saleh since the anti-government unrest began in January.

Opposition split

On Saturday, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) brokered a deal under which President Saleh would submit his resignation to parliament, and hand over power to his vice-president, 30 days after asking the opposition to name a prime minister to form a national unity government.
Mr Saleh's agreement to step down would also be dependent on parliament passing legislation providing immunity from prosecution for the president, his family "and those who worked with him during his rule".
Mr Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) immediately accepted the GCC proposal, while the opposition coalition agreed on Sunday only after its leaders had received "assurances" from the GCC, the US and Europe on the transfer of power.The deal caused a serious split between the opposition coalition and the youths who have led the demonstrations across the country for months. They accuse the politicians breaking a promise to put Mr Saleh on trial.Some have also warned that allowing the president to stay on for another month could exacerbate the crisis in the Arab World's poorest state.


profile of president Abdullah

Ali Abdullah Saleh has proved to be one of the Arab world's most tenacious leaders, projecting a statesman-like, even affable, image in the teeth of popular opposition, in sharp contrast to some of his counterparts during the "Arab spring".

While Yemen has seen the bloody repression of protests in its capital Sanaa and other cities, the country's president has sought - with diminishing success - to distance himself from the violence.Critics say he is a wily politician, using every means and loophole to stay in power, promising to exit politics only to bide his time in an effort to prolong his fourth decade at the top. Mr Saleh has led one of the most challenging countries in the region, an impoverished state vulnerable to militancy, positioned between the oil-rich authoritarianism of the Gulf states and the lawlessness of Somalia, and still healing from a Korea-like division during the Cold War.
Now approaching his 70th year, he has likened the task of ruling Yemen to "dancing on the heads of snakes"

Balancing act

The modern Republic of Yemen is inextricably linked to Mr Saleh, elected its first president after unification in 1990.Born in Sanaa and receiving little education, he worked his way up through North Yemen's military, being wounded during the 1970 civil war between republicans and Saudi-backed royalists.Taking part in a coup four years later, he assumed his first national leadership role in 1978, when parliament endorsed him as president.The next 12 years saw the painstaking work of unification with Marxist South Yemen, a process which briefly appeared to collapse in 1994 when civil war flared up.Abroad, Mr Saleh largely achieved the delicate task of keeping both Western and Arab powers on side.His battle to control al-Qaeda - who have sensed in Yemen a base comparable to Afghanistan in the late 1990s - won him friends in Washington.The Americans might otherwise have been wary of a leader who had stayed close to Iraq's Saddam Hussein during the occupation of Kuwait.

Turning-point

The spectre of civil war is something Mr Saleh has continued to conjure up in a bid to justify his hold on power.
"They [the opposition] want to drag the area to civil war and we refuse to be dragged to civil war," he said in a speech on 22 April, the day before news broke that he had agreed to leave power imminently.
"Security, safety and stability are in Yemen's interests and the interests of the region."
The shooting of 45 people by snipers at an opposition rally in Sanaa on 18 March had proved a turning-point for many, despite his denials that his security forces had taken part.Ministers and ambassadors abandoned him in protest, and the crowds in the streets swelled in the weeks that followed.
With outrage now added to anger at corruption and poverty he had failed to tackle for decades, Mr Saleh's "snake-dancing" days looked to be nearly over.

source BBC NEWS
BBC News - Yemen unrest: Protesters 'shot dead' in Sanaa
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