Protests continue to spread and gain momentum in Yemen for a seventh consecutive day Thursday. In the capital Sana'a, students appear to be spearheading the demonstrations against President Ali Abdallah Saleh, locking horns with tribal supporters of the long-time leader. Activists have called for more protests Friday, which they say will be a "day of rage" in Yemen.
Witnesses say clashes broke out between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in parts of Sana'a Thursday. Crowds of students appeared to be leading the movement in many places, fanning out across the capital after government supporters blocked the gates of Sana'a University.
Hakim Almasmari, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post newspaper, says that many people were injured when rival demonstrators plowed into eachother near the capital’s Tahrir Square.
"There were very strong clashes today in Sana'a, where hundreds of pro-government protesters were clashing with thousands of anti-government protesters,” Almasmari said. “The clashes took to almost every street in the western part of the capital and rocks were thrown by the thousands.... We had at least 80 injured from the opposition and 15 from the pro-government protesters and things are escalating and today there are over nine different provinces in Yemen which are seeing protests."
Police reportedly intervened at several points during the demonstrations, firing their weapons into the air. Rival crowds hurled stones and bottles at each other, with many brandishing batons, sticks and knives.
Al Jazeera television showed images of clashes in Taiz and Aden, reporting that further clashes were taking place in Hodeida and Lahaj.
Large contingents of the Yemeni Army and the Republican Guard were reportedly deployed in both Taiz and Aden. Southern Yemeni separatists are calling for secession from the central government, while protesters elsewhere are demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdallah Saleh.
Video footage of Yemen protests:
Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University says that the protests have different goals in north and south Yemen.
"The tone of the protests seem to be very different from Aden to Taiz to Sana'a, so in Sana'a, where most of the reporters are gathered, we seem to have the smallest protests, where in Taiz they're larger and much more peaceful, and then in Aden, where the protests have been going on for the past few years, they're calling for secession, not calling for the overthrow of the regime or for President Saleh to step down. You have something different entirely," Johnsen said.
He says it is not clear if the "different strands of opposition and protests can coalesce as in Egypt and Tunisia, by merely focusing on the person of the president."
Protesters are demanding the resignation of President Saleh, who has been in office since 1978. He recently indicated that he would not run again when his term expires in 2013.