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Yemen Protest Crackdown Intensifies; at Least 50 Killed since Sunday

September 20, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Middle East, Protests with 0 Comments

At least 50 anti-government protesters have been killed by state security forces in Yemen over the past three days, the BBC reports.

Forces loyal to longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh attacked a protest camp in the capital city of Sanaa, with mortar shells and sniper fire being used against the demonstrators. At least six people were killed overnight.

Witnesses report government snipers are targeting people from rooftops in the city; government officials deny this and blame al-Qaeda-allied terrorists working with the opposition for the renewal in violence.

Anti-government protests have engulfed this poor Arab country since early this year, as millions of disenchanted Arabs have risen up across the region demanding greater freedom and improved economic conditions. In Yemen, demonstrators have demanded the resignation of President Saleh, who has ruled part of the country since 1978 and all of it since 1990. Saleh’s forces responded to the uprising against him with deadly force, with many peaceful protesters slaughtered in repeated government crackdowns.

In the face of Saleh’s brutal response to the protests, the United States withdrew its support for his regime, telling the one-time cherished ally in the War on Terror that he should step down. On June 3, the dictator was seriously wounded in an attack on his compound by rebel militants; he fled to Saudi Arabia to undergo surgery and recover in a more secure environment. He has remained there ever since.

In addition to crushing demonstrations, Yemeni government forces have been battling an army unit that defected, targeting it with airstrikes. Former government forces now loyal to the demonstrators have reportedly scored a major victory by capturing a base formerly held by the elite Republic Guards.

The BBC also reports that a severe humanitarian crisis is wracking Yemen, with 7.5 million people, or about a third of the population, suffering from hunger.

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