Yemeni government denies protester's death amid clashes

10:48, February 20, 2011      

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Yemeni Defense Ministry denied on Saturday that an anti-regime protester was killed by gunshot from government supporters during Saturday's clashes in the capital of Sanaa.

In a statement posted on its website, the ministry said the protester is alive and is still receiving treatment in the hospital after having sustained serious injury by a gunshot during the clashes.

Earlier Saturday, a Xinhua reporter and a police officer said Bassam Yaseen Abdu, a 21-year-old university student protesting in a rally against the long-serving President Ali Abdullah Saleh, was shot dead and three others were seriously injured by gunshots outside Sanaa University.

About 1,000 anti-government protesters, mostly students, clashed with over than 300 government backers wielding guns, daggers and batons, eyewitnesses said, adding that the dead student and the injured were shot by the government supporters.

Saleh, who was facing growing demands from across the country for his resignation, blamed the mounting protests on "a conspiracy against Yemen's security and stability," the state-run news agency Saba reported.

"Fools and outlaw elements are invoking crowds with rage to push them into a civil war, and only innocent civilians would pay the price of such conspiratorial war," Saleh said in a speech aired by the state television.

The president also ordered security authorities to protect journalists covering the anti-regime protests, according to Saba.

Saleh's action came following a complaint by the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate on Saturday that dozens of local and foreign reporters were deliberately beaten and their cameras were smashed by government backers during the clashes.

The Yemeni parliament also expressed regrets Saturday for victims of the demonstrations and condemned "destructive acts that targeted public property," Saba reported.

"With grave concerns, the parliament followed up the latest developments in the national arena, including the acts of violence, vandalism and destruction that took place in some provinces, leaving some victims dead or injured," the parliament said in a press release cited by Saba.

As many as three anti-government protesters were killed and about 72 were wounded Friday in fierce clashes as the protests rattled Yemen's major cities of Taiz, Aden and the capital of Sanaa for over a week.

A leading opposition official told Xinhua Friday that the national dialogue with the ruling General People's Congress party will be resumed in a few days. The official, who asked not to be named, did not elaborate further.

The current turmoil added extra uncertainty to the poor Arab country, which was already undermined by a Shiite rebellion in the north, a growing separatist movement in the south and a resurgence of terrorist threats throughout the country.

Saleh, who has been in power for more than 30 years, said earlier this month he would not seek re-election or pass power to his son. He also pledged to freeze all the controversial constitutional amendments which could allow him to be president for life.

The Shiite armed rebels in north Yemen vowed last Tuesday that they would support protesters against Saleh if the "revolution breaks out."

Source: Xinhua
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