Yemeni police open fire on protesters; 3 killed

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters Tuesday, killing at least three amid rising international concern over the strategically located nation.

The United Nations Security Council met late Tuesday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Yemen, where rights groups say two months of protests calling for the president to step down have claimed 120 lives.

A government delegation also headed to nearby Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, for talks with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council over a proposal for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to transfer power to his deputy to end the crisis. The opposition held similar talks in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Thousands of protesters were marching in the southern city of Taiz, a hotbed of anti-government activism, demanding the president’s resignation when security forces opened fire.

The director of a city field hospital, Dr. Sadeq al-Shuja, said at least one was killed in the crackdown. Activist Nouh al-Wafi said earlier that four protesters were wounded including one who was in a very critical condition.

Protesters also gathered outside a security office, where seven of their colleagues have been detained, demanding their release.

Four protesters were killed in demonstrations earlier this month.

The U.N. Security Council met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss the situation in Yemen for the first time, a sign of growing global concern about the situation. Council diplomats said the briefing, by U.N. political chief B. Lynn Pascoe, was requested by the GCC.

“We are very concerned about the situation in Yemen,” German Ambassador Peter Wittig said as he headed into the meeting. Wittig said the council’s discussion “sends out a good signal” and “supports the efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council to alleviate the tensions and find a solution to the Yemeni crisis.”

The U.N. children’s fund said Tuesday that at least 26 children have been killed during the protests over the last two months. Most died of wounds from live ammunition during clashes between security forces and anti-government demonstrators, said UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado.

The country’s opposition, inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, says nothing short of Saleh’s immediate departure would end the unrest.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, and protesters are calling for steps to improve livelihoods and open up the country’s restricted political life. The protests are the biggest direct challenge to Saleh’s three decades in power. His weak government has little control beyond the capital and has struggled to confront an armed rebellion in the north and a secessionist movement in the south.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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