MORE than 30 anti-regime protesters were shot dead and over 100 wounded last night during a demonstration in the Yemeni capital.
Pro-regime “thugs” opened fire from houses close to the square at Sanaa University on protesters calling for the ousting of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, witnesses said.
Medics said more than 30 were killed and more than 100 wounded. “Most of the wounds were to the head, neck and chest,” one medic said.
Thousands have camped out in the square since February 21 demanding the departure of Mr Saleh, who has been in power since 1978.
Yesterday’s bloodbath came after five Yemeni protesters were wounded in an attack on Wednesday night by masked men on the Sanaa University sit-in.
Anti-government activists said that the attackers, wielding guns, clubs and daggers, were thugs loyal to the regime.
On Sunday, witnesses said, dozens were injured when police and loyalists of the ruling General People’s Congress party attacked protesters in the square with live rounds and tear gas .
On Thursday, security forces and government loyalists struck protest camps across Yemen, hurling rocks, beating protesters with sticks and firing rubber and live bullets, hoping to break the will of thousands camped in squares for more than a month.
The violence underscored the attrition tactic of Mr Saleh, who does not appear to have the will – or perhaps the capabilities – to disperse the demonstrators conclusively.
In the past few weeks, he has unleashed fiery assaults on protesters in different cities using a mix of security forces and paid thugs, apparently hoping to wear them out.
It is just one of the problems this extremely poor, tribal country faces. Even before protests began in the middle of last month, Yemen’s government was struggling to confront one of the world’s most active al-Qa’ida branches, a secessionist rebellion in the south and a Shia uprising in the north.
Mr Saleh is a key ally in the US campaign against the al-Qa’ida terror network. On Thursday, al-Qa’ida militants ambushed police as they ate lunch at a checkpoint. In a gunfight, three militants and three police were killed, said a security official in Marib province.
In the southern province of Taiz, police hurled canisters of choking gas to break up a rally of several thousand. Government loyalists joined in, attacking protesters with iron rods, sticks and knives, witnesses said.
“Thugs – security forces in plain clothes – attacked us,” said demonstrator Bushra al-Maqtari.
Several hours later, police and paid thugs rushed at the demonstrators again, adding rubber bullets and live fire to violently disperse the crowd. Medics said about 80 protesters were injured, at least four with gunshot wounds.
Over the past month, security forces have killed 78 demonstrators, according to a Yemeni rights group. Most of those were in the port-side province of Aden.