15 wounded in Yemen clashes (Lead)

February 17th, 2011 - 8:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Sanaa, Feb 17 (IANS) At least 15 people were injured in clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters in Yemen’s capital Sanaa Thursday, Xinhua said. The demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh continued for the seventh consecutive day Thursday.

Xinhua reported that at least two protesters died of gunshot wounds during clashes with police Wednesday in the southern port city of Aden.

Some 500 anti-government protesters, mostly students demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, gathered in Sanaa University where they clashed with pro-regime supporters wielding daggers and batons, leaving at least 15 protesters injured.

Anti-riot policemen rushed to the scene to break up the clashes between the rival groups. One policeman was seriously wounded, a police officer told Xinhua.

Several hundreds of anti-government protesters also took to the streets in provinces of Al-Bayda, Al-Hodayda, Taiz, Abyan and Aden, raising slogans for Saleh’s ouster, according to a security source at the interior ministry.

Clashes were taking place between the demonstrators and the anti-riot policemen. There were no further reports of casualties yet.

“Rampant official corruption has been destroying the country and we, the Yemeni people, need the changes and revolution badly,” said Hamoud Najee, a protester.

On Sunday, the opposition coalition agreed to enter a national dialogue with the ruling party and stop organising protests, but demanded that Saleh must step down in 2013 as he promised.

The opposition insisted that all the president’s family members be removed from top military and security posts, including his son Ahmed Ali who, it was widely believed, would become the next president.

Saleh, who has been in power for 33 years and is facing growing popular protests against his rule, announced earlier this month he would step down after his term expires in 2013 and promised he would hand power over to his son.

The embattled president also pledged to raise salaries of government employees and to provide 60,000 job opportunities for university graduates.

Yemen, an impoverished Arab country, struggles to cement a fragile ceasefire deal with a Shia rebels in the north and to quell a growing separatist movement in the south while resurgent Al Qaeda regional group rampages through the country’s major cities.

Yemen’s economy, experts fear, is likely to collapse in two years’ time under pressure from rising inflation and unemployment rates with sharply declining oil production, which contributes two-thirds of the country’s revenue.

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