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Supporters, Opponents of Yemen's President Clash in Capital

Government backers chase anti-government protesters during clashes in Sanaa, February 14, 2011
Government backers chase anti-government protesters during clashes in Sanaa, February 14, 2011

Anti-government protesters marched in Yemen's capital again Monday, calling for the resignation of President Ali Abdallah Saleh. They were attacked by supporters of the president.

Pro-government and anti-government demonstrators clashed in the center of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on Monday. Witnesses say a number of protesters were hurt when pro-government forces assaulted an advancing group of protesters, mostly students.

Other anti-government protests were reported in the southern port city of Aden and in Taiz, north of Aden.

The Yemen Post newspaper editor-in-chief Hakim Almasmari says that a small group of government supporters controlling the capital's Liberation Square began attacking the larger group of protesters with stones, sticks, and knives:

"Today there were some crazy protests. It turned violent,"he said. The anti-government protesters were attacked by pro-government protesters, who are believed to be paid by the government to attack the anti-government protesters.

Dozens were injured, some seriously, because these pro-government gangs were beating them with sticks, knives and rocks,"continued Almasmari. "The anti-government [protesters] were almost a thousand [in number], and the pro-government gangs or protesters were less than a hundred. We were hiding in our car, but we had our car hit by a couple of rocks."

It was the fourth straight day of anti-government protests in Yemen's capital. State television reported Sunday that President Ali Abdallah Saleh has postponed an official visit to Washington planned for later this month.

Meanwhile, Yemeni opposition members have responded cautiously to offers by President Saleh to undertake various reforms. Opposition leader Mohammed Salem Basandwa is demanding outside guarantees before entering into negotiations:

He says that "from our past experience [in negotiating with the government], we have learned to insist on outside guarantees from regional, Arab and international parties" [before entering into negotiations].

Opposition parties want President Saleh to distance members of his family, including his son, from state affairs. The president recently said he would not seek re-election when his term expires in 2013. He has been president since 1978.

Groups of student protesters, who for the most part are not affiliated with the opposition parties, are demanding the immediate resignation of Saleh. Many are now chanting slogans that became popular during the Egyptian uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

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