Sana’a: More than 2,000 people have been killed in a year of political turmoil that led to the resignation of Yemen`s longtime president, the government disclosed on Sunday. The figure is much higher than human rights groups estimated.
The government released its first casualty figures on a day when crowds of protesters were marking one year since a particularly bloody day, when dozens were killed.
Yemen`s Ministry of Human Rights said the figure of at least 2,000 includes both unarmed protesters and military defectors, as well as more than 120 children. It said 22,000 people were wounded over the past year.
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International estimated earlier this year that 200 protesters had been killed in the uprising.
The government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down as president last month after more than three decades in power, never released casualty figures.
For nearly a year, armed men in plain clothes loyal to Saleh attacked anti-government protesters, while security forces did little to stop them.
Yemenis protested across the country on Sunday to mark the killing of more than 50 protesters last year by snipers loyal to the former regime.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in at least 18 provinces to demand that Saleh be tried for the deaths of protesters killed a year ago on "Friday of Dignity”, when snipers fired from rooftops at protesters in Sanaa`s Change Square.
As part of an internationally backed deal, Saleh was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for handing over powers to his vice president.
Saleh`s successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, decreed on Sunday that families who lost relatives in the uprising would be given a monthly stipend.
The newly appointed prime minister, Salem Mohammed Bassindwa, visited Sanaa`s Change Square on Sunday and prayed at a cemetery where protesters were buried. He told youth demonstrators that he would fulfil the goals of their movement.
He denounced the "blatant attacks on hundreds of thousands of revolutionaries and people exercising their right to demonstrate peacefully”. Bassindwa heads a coalition government comprised of ministers from both Saleh`s regime and the opposition.
The internal turmoil has led to a collapse of security in many parts of Yemen.
On Sunday, two gunmen dressed in military uniforms on a motorcycle shot dead an American teacher working at a language institute in the central Yemen city of Taiz, said the region`s provincial governor, Hamoud al-Sufi.
Taiz is the second largest city in Yemen and has been a centre of anti-government protests.
Al -Sufi did not have details on who the killers might be and said an investigation was in progress.
The head of security in Taiz, Ali Saidi, said the American, identified as Joel Wesley, was killed in his car when the assailants sped up next to him and opened fire. Wesley worked for two years at the Swiss Language Institute, financed by the International Training and Development Centre. The centre, established in Yemen in the 1970s, is one of the oldest foreign language institutes in the impoverished Arab country.
Further south, security officials said a naval bombardment on Sunday killed more than 16 al Qaeda fighters in Aden`s provincial capital of Zinjibar. Militants affiliated with al Qaeda have taken advantage of the chaos in Yemen to seize control of cities and town in that area.
In another attack on Sunday, medical officials said an aerial assault killed at least eight militants in Jaar, just north of Zinjibar. Both cities have been under al Qaeda control since last spring. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to disclose the information.
Residents said a civilian was wounded when an airstrike hit a post office used as a hospital in Jaar. The city`s main hospital was destroyed in a government bombardment last year.