By AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press Mar 8, 2011
SANAA, Yemen – The Yemeni government escalated its efforts to stop mass
protests calling for the president's ouster on Tuesday, with soldiers
firing rubber bullets and tear gas at students camped at a university in
the capital in a raid that left at least 98 people wounded, officials
The army stormed the Sanaa University campus hours after thousands of
inmates rioted at the central prison in the capital, taking a dozen guards
hostage and calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. At
least one prisoner was killed and 80 people were wounded as the guards
fought to control the situation, police said.
Yemen has been rocked by weeks of protests against Saleh, inspired by
recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that drove out those nations'
leaders. Saleh, a key U.S. ally in the campaign against al-Qaida, has been
in power 32 years. In a sign that the protests are gaining traction,
graffiti calling for Saleh to step down surfaced Tuesday in his
birthplace, village of Sanhan, for the first time since the protests
Students at Sanaa University have been sleeping on campus since
mid-February, shortly after the start of the protests calling for the
country's president to step down.
Medical officials said many of the 98 people wounded were in serious
condition. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they
weren't authorized to release the information. Witnesses reported seeing
armored vehicles and personnel carriers headed to the area of the
"It's a massacre," said opposition spokesman Muhammad Qahtan. "It is a
crime by security troops against students engaged in a peaceful sit-in."
Demonstrations also continued elsewhere in the country. In the southern
port city of Aden, a crowd of women joined a demonstration after a young
protester was shot in the head and critically wounded during a rally there
the previous day.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in the Ibb province, calling on the
government to bring to justice those responsible for a deadly attack there
Sunday. Opposition activists blamed "government thugs" who descended on
protesters camped out on a main square. One person was killed in that
violence and 53 people were hurt.
Even before Yemen was hit by the wave of protests, the country was growing
increasingly chaotic with a resurgent al-Qaida, a separatist movement in
the south and a Shiite rebellion occasionally flaring in the north.
Seeking to head off the protests, Saleh called for national dialogue after
meetings Monday with the country's top political and security chiefs. The
state-run news agency said the conference would be held Thursday and would
include thousands of representatives from across Yemen's political
But opposition leader Yassin Said Numan said there would be no dialogue
unless Saleh agreed to step down by year's end.
Saleh's recent pledge not to run for re-election in 2013 has failed to
quell the protests.
The unrest at the prison started late Monday when inmates set their
blankets and mattresses ablaze and occupied the facility's main courtyard,
a security official said.
Prison guards fired tear gas and gunshots in the air but failed to subdue
the rioters, the security official said, speaking on condition of
anonymity because he was not supposed to talk to the media. The prison
revolt was still going on Tuesday afternoon, he said.
Residents close to the prison reported hearing gunfire and blasts and said
troops were bringing in military reinforcements.
Abdelrahman Burman, a lawyer who heads a human rights organization called
"Sajin" — Arabic for prisoner — said at least one inmate was killed by a
bullet fired by riot police and more than 80 people were wounded,
including 20 policemen and prison guards.
He said about half of the wounded were shot and the rest suffered
breathing problems and fainting because of the tear gas.
A police official confirmed the casualty numbers. He spoke on condition of
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.