SANAA (Reuters) - One person was killed and 200 wounded when Yemen security forces attacked protesters in the Red Sea city of Hudaida with live and rubber bullets, tear gas, clubs and daggers, a doctor who treated victims said.
The impoverished Arabian Peninsula state has been hit by weeks of protests against the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Both pro and anti-government factions appear to have increasingly resorted to violence in the struggle.
A doctor treating protesters in Hudaida said hundreds of security forces and plainclothes police had attacked a sit-in.
“We received around 200 wounded, 10 were hit by gunfire and 40 suffered stab wounds. One died from his gunshot wounds after reaching the hospital,” he said.
Demonstrators contacted by Reuters said they were calling on private hospitals to send ambulances and asked Yemenis to donate blood to help treat the wounded. The city’s main hospital had been filled to capacity, they said.
Shouting over the rising clamor and chanting of protesters who regrouped after the attack, one demonstrator told Reuters by phone that security forces, most in civilian clothes, had surrounded the sit-in but later retreated.
“The thugs have left, the wounded are getting treatment and our sit-in continues,” Abdulhafid al-Nihari said.
Two protesters told Reuters some of the wounded demonstrators had been chased down by security forces and then beaten in the hospital, but this could not be verified.
DONOR MEETING Canceled
The United States, which has long seen Saleh as a bulwark against an aggressive al Qaeda wing based in Yemen, has condemned the bloodshed and backed the right to peaceful protest. It says only dialogue can end the crisis.
Protesters, frustrated by rampant corruption and soaring unemployment, have been increasingly strident in their demand that Saleh step down. Some 40 percent of Yemen’s 23 million people live on $2 a day or less and a third face chronic hunger.
As widespread protests continue despite rising violence and Saleh’s promises of reform, Yemen delayed a meeting with a group of Western and Gulf Arab donors, known as “Friends of Yemen,” in Riyadh later this month, state news agency Saba said.
“Yemen proposed delaying the group’s coming meeting to give a chance for more preparation and coordination and will announce a new date soon,” Saba said.
In further violence on Wednesday, a leading activist in Taiz said plainclothes police targeted and beat women at a rally in the city, 200 km (125 miles) south of capital Sanaa, where tens of thousands have camped out for weeks. At least eleven there were wounded, Bushra al-Maqtari said.
Even before protests, Yemen had been teetering on the brink of failed statehood. Saleh’s cash strapped government has been struggling to cement a truce with Shi’ite rebels in the north and quell a separatist rebellion in the once independent south.
Writing by Erika Solomon; Editing by Peter Graff