8:27am

Sat March 19, 2011
Middle East

Police Storm Protest Camp In Yemen

A brutal crackdown failed to stop massive protests against Yemen's U.S.-backed president, who attacked a protest camp in the south's main city on Saturday but couldn't halt demonstrations there or in the capital.

Police shot live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in the makeshift camp in Aden, wounding at least 13 people including three hit by the live rounds, demonstrators told The Associated Pres by telephone.

Thousands surged out of the camp and surrounded a nearby police station in an attempt to seize it. Police fired in the air to hold them back, protesters told the AP.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh's crackdown on dissent escalated dramatically on Friday, when security forces in the capital, Sanaa, killed at least 46 people and injured hundreds.

Thousands demanding Saleh's ouster stood their ground, hurling stones at troops despite more live fire and tear gas, in the large traffic circle they have dubbed Taghyir, or Change, Square.

The protests continued Saturday as soldiers in tanks and armored personnel carriers took up positions at intersections and key buildings including the presidential palace, the state TV building and other government institutions. Soldiers searched motorists and passersby.

Many of the victims in Friday's violence were shot in the head and neck, their bodies left sprawled on the ground. They included a Yemeni photojournalist, Jamal al-Sharaabi, who was the first journalist killed in the unrest.

The violence was condemned by the United States, which has long relied on Saleh for help fighting the al-Qaida branch based in this volatile, impoverished nation and is sending Yemen's government with $250 million in military aid this year.

Several prominent members of Saleh's ruling Congress Party announced their resignation Saturday. Among those were two former culture ministers and the head of the state-run news agency, Nasr Taha Moustafa, who has close ties to Saleh.

Two cabinet ministers have already resigned in protest.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "deeply troubled," said his spokesman, Martin Nesirky. He "reiterates his call for utmost restraint and reminds the government of Yemen that it has an obligation to protect civilians." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.