26 killed in anti-Saleh march in Yemen
Sanaa , September 19, 2011
At least 26 people were shot dead and hundreds wounded on Sunday when security forces fired on demonstrators who charged police lines in Yemen's capital Sanaa, in a dramatic escalation of protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Gunfire and explosions were heard late into the night and protesters vowed to continue demonstrations on Monday morning.
A Reuters witness earlier saw security forces fire at protesters from buildings and use water cannon and tear gas to hold back tens of thousands of demonstrators.
Some of the protesters were wielding batons or throwing petrol bombs at police cars.
"Why are you still sitting here? Get moving everyone, move. Go defend the martyrs' honor," blared a voice on loudspeakers in Change Square, where thousands have camped out in tents for eight months to demand an end to Saleh's 33-year rule.
Hundreds still in the ramshackle camp answered the call, running and chanting "God is great, freedom!" as they streamed down the street.
"This is the worst day I've seen in three months. We're expecting more dead to come in," said doctor Jamal al-Hamdani, who was treating dozens of patients with bullet wounds.
The injured were rushed in on stretchers and laid out on blood-streaked floors in a mosque being used as a makeshift hospital.
Medics there estimated some 342 had suffered gunshot wounds, with 36 in a critical condition. The face of one dead man was torn away from an injury medics said appeared to be caused by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fired at his head.
Frustrated by their failure to oust Saleh, who is clinging to power as he recovers in neighbouring Saudi Arabia from a June assassination attempt, protesters were keen to ratchet up demonstrations.
"Escalation, escalation," they chanted, running past large numbers of police loyal to Saleh.
Soldiers from an army unit that has defected to support the protests cautiously pointed machine guns and RPGs out from behind sand-bagged street corners.
The bodies of some protesters killed during the demonstrations were returned to Change Square covered in white sheets, their names and date of death scribbled on a sheet of paper over their chest.
Tawfiq, 23, wiped away tears as he cradled the head of his 33-year-old cousin, who died from a gunshot to his stomach. "We protested and camped here together since the beginning," he said, surrounded by sobbing mourners lifting their arms to the sky.
Witnesses said protesters had seized a road junction near the site of the clashes. The area had marked part of the dividing line between the districts of Sanaa held by troops loyal to Saleh and those taken by general Ali Mohsen, who defected and threw his weight behind protesters months ago. - Reuters