Yemen’s president declared a state of emergency across the country today. President Ali Abdullah Saleh made the announcement just hours after security forces fired on protesters in the capital city Sana'a. At least 30 are dead and hundreds more injured. Tom Finn is an editor at the Yemen Times newspaper in Sana'a. He was outside Sana'a University this morning when the violence began.
Hilleary: I understand you were in University Square in Sana'a this morning when the violence took place. Can you tell us what you saw?
Finn: I was at Sana'a university this morning where a huge prayer was being held. Thousands and thousands of protesters gathered at the gates to the university to mourn the deaths of seven protesters who were killed in violence last weekend. The protest started peacefully, but as soon as the prayers had finished, some anti-government protesters set fire to a car at the end of this mile-long stretch of road. The sight of this billowing smoke attracted the attention of all these protesters, who then began surging towards it.
Now, eyewitnesses told me that Yemeni soldiers started opening fire on these protesters, who were trying to march out of the University area. They were then later joined by plain-clothes government supporters who also fired upon these protesters from the roofs of nearby houses.
So I then went to the nearby hospital, which is actually a mosque that has been turned into a hospital. And there were hundreds and hundreds of people being brought in. It was a chaotic scene. People had been shot in the chest, in the legs. I saw at least 20 people who had been shot dead, shot in the back of the head. They were lined out on the floor in the main prayer room of the mosque. People were being ferried off to the hospital in ambulances - generally, just a chaotic scene. The doctors were underequipped. They ran out of bandages at one point.
So, this is what would be seen as a seriously violent crackdown on these protesters, who’ve been gathering outside the University for a month now.
Hilleary: What does the nature of the wounds say about those who did it and their intentions?
Finn: An Indian doctor told me that whoever had been firing on these protesters was shooting to kill. They weren’t shooting to try and injure them or to disperse them. They were shooting in order to kill them. As I said, I saw three people who had gaping wounds in the back of their heads and who’d been shot in the back of their heads, which suggests that they may have been running away as they were fired upon.
Hilleary: Has the government issued any statement?
Finn: They are yet to issue any statement on what has happened. Whilst these anti-government protests were going on, there were also big pro-government rallies in the main square in Sana'a, so most of the estate media has until now been focused on these pro-government rallies, which also had huge numbers, maybe up to 100,000 people gathering to support the president.
For more information please visit Yemen Times newspaper at http://www.yementimes.com/.