Yemen troops out on streets

Anti-government protesters chant slogans against President Ali Abdullah Saleh during a demonstration in Sana’a on Saturday. AFP

Defying the crackdown, the opposition vowed to keep up its “peaceful revolution” in the poor Arabian peninsula state, a neighbour of Saudi Arabia and a US ally against the al-Qaeda.

Soldiers set up checkpoints to enforce a ban on carrying firearms in public, even checking for hidden guns inside the ornamental scabbards of traditional Yemeni jambiya daggers.

Nasr Taha Mustafa, head of the state news agency and a leading ruling party member, said he had resigned from his post and the party in protest over Friday’s killings of 42 protesters by rooftop snipers in the capital.  The snipers opened fire on crowds that flocked to a protest encampment at Sanaa University after Friday prayers. Protesters said they had caught at least seven snipers carrying government identity cards, but President Ali Abdullah Saleh denied this, blaming gunmen among the protesters for the violence.

“I find myself compelled to submit my resignation ... after the heinous massacre in Sanaa yesterday ... Nothing can justify the death of scores of youths whose only sin was to exercise the freedom guaranteed by Islam and the constitution to demand change,” Mustafa said.

Another party member, Mohamed Saleh Qara’a, told Reuters he had also quit because of the “completely unacceptable” violence. The tourism minister and the head of the party’s foreign affairs committee resigned on Friday.

Inspired by mass protests that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, demonstrators have been demanding for weeks that veteran President Saleh step down.

Friday’s bloodshed prompted Saleh, struggling to preserve his 32-year rule, to declare a state of emergency for 30 days that restricts freedom of movement and the right to gather. It also grants police more leeway to make inspections and arrests.

Tanks were deployed for the first time since the disturbances began.Yemen’s Opposition said there was no way it could negotiate with Saleh’s government after Friday’s killings.

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