Security forces are using bulldozers and fire to dismantle demonstrators’ camps in Freedom Square in Taiz, a center of protest against the Yemeni president, a human rights activist and eyewitnesses said Monday.
The protest camp was essentially gone on Monday, said Bushra Maktati, a leading human rights activist in Taiz. A field hospital was also dismantled, with the equipment taken away by troops, Maktati said. Troops also used water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters in the city on Monday, a day after clashes left at least 20 people dead and 200 wounded, according to eyewitnesses and two medical officials who could not be named because of security concerns.
One youth activist said the attacks would not stop their protesters. “Our revolution will not stop even if hundreds are killed every day,” said Sameer Al-Samaee, a leading youth activist in Taiz. “Killing innocent civilians always leads to war crime charges and that is what we are seeking for Saleh.” (CNN)
A doctor in the city, Abdulkadir al-Gunaid, told the BBC that security forces were erasing all traces of the protests in Freedom Square. “They attacked, shot at people, burned their tents. The square had a big stage to make speeches and to make plays and songs, loudspeakers and this sort of thing… They killed them [protesters] and at 0300, they brought bulldozers and finished it all. There is nothing there. They are even cleaning it so no one can guess that there was anything like that before.” (BBC)
Activist Bushra al-Maqtari told AFP news agency: “This was a massacre. They have dragged the wounded off to detention centers from the streets.” (BBC)
Meanwhile, government forces launched airstrikes against Islamic militants in the coastal city of Zinjibar, where fierce fighting raged Sunday.
And the nation’s largest cell phone network was ordered shut down Sunday, according to a senior official with the country’s Communications Ministry who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The SABAFON network was ordered shut down because of violations and unpaid fines over the last few years, the Communications Ministry official told CNN. A management official with the SABFON network, who was also not authorized to speak to the press, confirmed the shutdown. The official denied the government’s allegations and said the move appeared to be a tactic to pressure members of the al-Ahmar family, including Hamid al-Ahmar – President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s chief political enemy. The official said members of the al-Ahmar family are majority shareholders in SABAFON, with the largest shareholder being Hamid al-Ahmar.
Saleh has been under intense pressure to resign after months of protests and mounting opposition.
Taiz, where protests continued Monday, has been a center of anti-Saleh activity. The most recent protests broke out Sunday when thousands of protesters broke out Sunday when thousands of protesters took to the streets and were met with gunfire from security forces. Protesters threw rocks at the forces, who responded with more gunfire, witnesses said.
Protesters threw rocks at the forces, who responded with more gunfire, witnesses said. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa condemned what it called the “unprovoked and unjustified attack” on demonstrators in Taiz. It praised the protesters and called on Saleh “to move immediately on his commitment to transfer power.” (CNN)
On Monday, security forces were arresting youths and taking them from the streets to an unknown location, the human rights activist said. At least 70 tents had been burned down by security forces since late Sunday night, according to witnesses.
A hospital within the protest area was looted early Monday, forcing the wounded to seek assistance further away, said Abdulkafi Shamsan, a doctor there. He said about 15 soldiers held nurses at gunpoint as they smashed computers, stole medical supplies and detained several injured patients. “They even shot their guns inside the hospital,” he said. “I was in the operation room, I went downstairs and I saw everything destroyed.” (New York Times)
Abdu Ganadi, a government spokesman, said security forces were rescuing colleagues who had been captured and beaten by protesters. “We did not attack the protesters,” Ganadi said. “Reports are all exaggerated. Only two were killed.” (CNN) He said the protesters’ tents were burned by people attacked by the protesters, and that tents that burned were empty.
The opposition coalition Common Forum condemned the “crimes against humanity” committed by President Saleh’s “remaining responsible for his continued crimes against people. These crimes do not get forgotten with time,” the forum said in a statement. “They are being monitored and documented, and those who have committed them, and who provided arms and money, will not escape justice.” (BBC)
In Zinjibar, fighting continued Monday between Yemeni troops and Islamic militants. Militants moved into the city on Friday and controlled the streets by Saturday, residents said. The militants began ferocious attacks on Saturday, according to a Yemeni government official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Security forces and soldiers abandoned their posts, leading to chaos, the source said.
Hundreds of soldiers moved back into the city on Sunday, with heavy fighting between militants and the Army’s 25th Mechanized Brigade, the source said.
More than two dozen soldiers had been killed since the start of the battle on Saturday, said a government source Sunday who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The fighting occurred on the same day Saleh met with top military and security officials to talk about “hostilities and crimes” occurring in his country, the Yemeni State News Agency reported. (CNN)
Saleh has been resisting protests calling on him to step down after 33 years in power. The powerful al-Hashid tribe, which includes the al-Ahmar family, rose up against long-time leader Saleh in the last week, after he backed out of a regionally brokered deal meant to ease him out of office and end months of demonstrations of the kind that have swept the Arab world this year. The recent fighting has raised fears of a full-blown civil war in Yemen, an impoverished, arid and mountainous nation that has been a key U.S. ally in the battle against the al Qaeda terrorist network.