Yemen toll up as general denies eyeing Saleh seat

Protesters kept up the heat on President Ali Abdullah Saleh as deaths mounted in the flashpoint city of Taez.

Updated: Apr 09, 2011, 20:22 PM IST

Sanaa: Protesters kept up the heat on
President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Saturday as deaths mounted in the
flashpoint city of Taez, even as a dissident general denied
aiming to replace the Yemeni leader.

On the regional scene, Yemen recalled its ambassador
to Qatar, state news agency Saba announced, after a call from
the Gulf state for Saleh to step down stirred anger in Sanaa.

And the army shelled a suspected al Qaeda refuge in
southern Yemen, after the United States expressed concern that
pressure on the militant group had eased amid months of
protests calling for the president`s departure.

Thousands of protesters massed in Al-Hurriya (Liberty)
Square in Taez, south of Sanaa, calling for those behind the
deadly shooting of protesters to be held to account and for
Saleh to go.

Medics said Yemeni security forces shot dead four
protesters and wounded 116 in the flashpoint city in clashes
that erupted yesterday and carried on into the next morning.

Apart from those killed or wounded by gunfire, 650
people suffered from tear gas inhalation, according to medics
at a field hospital set up near Al-Hurriya Square.

Clashes lasted until about 3:00 am today (0530 IST),
with protesters trying to take over a provincial government
building near the square, witnesses said.

In another bastion of opposition to Saleh, a protest
strike paralysed southern Yemen`s main city of Aden, where
shops were shuttered in many districts, roads were cut off and
public transport ground to a halt.

Meanwhile, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who has sided
with anti-regime demonstrators and accused regime supporters
of trying to kill him, denied having his sights set on
political power.

Ahmar, who commands Yemen`s northwest military
district including Sanaa, pledged in late March to defend the
protesters, who have pressed since January for Saleh`s ouster.

"The army will be under the control of civilians, and
I do not seek any position of power," Ahmar told an envoy of
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, according to an overnight statement from
the general`s office.

"The army has merely responded to the call of the
people who wished to protect the protesters from killings,
repression and terror exercised by the regime, certain
security services and the Republican Guard," Ahmar said.

Ahmar and other generals, top tribal and religious
leaders and a number of other officials have defected, but key
parts of the security forces commanded by Saleh`s family
members, such as the Republican Guard, have remained loyal.

Yemen`s foreign ministry, quoted by Saba, said Sanaa`s
ambassador to Doha was "recalled for consultations following
remarks by... (Qatari Prime Minister) Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim
bin Jabr al-Thani."

PTI