Babylon & Beyond

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YEMEN: President tells security forces to protect those protesting against him

February 24, 2011 | 10:20 am

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered security forces to protect the anti-government demonstrators trying to oust him, the government said in a press statement issued through its embassy in Washington.

The directive followed reports of at least 15 deaths among the mostly young protesters demanding that Saleh step down after 32 years in power. The protests in Yemen appear to have been inspired by the success of anti-regime uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt in ousting entrenched authoritarian leaders.

The president, who has already said he won't seek re-election in 2013, said he had "instructed all security services to thwart all clashes and prevent direct confrontation between pro- and anti-government protesters," the statement said. It also called on the protesters to "remain vigilant" and prevent their peaceful ranks from being infiltrated by those prone to violence.

According to the Al Jazeera news network, thousands of students and other young demonstrators occupied a tent city outside Sana University on Thursday, the fifth day of a concerted action to force Saleh's resignation.

Angry regime supporters have confronted the demonstrators in recent days, wielding clubs and knives and at times firing shots at opponents they contend are trying to destabilize the country.

-- Carol J. Williams