Government security forces beat demonstrators and then opened fire on them late Tuesday night, fatally wounding one protester and leaving nine others with bullet wounds and scores suffering from tear gas, according to medical personnel outside Sana University. Protests in Sana, the capital, have been relatively peaceful since President Ali Abdullah Saleh said that Yemeni security forces would protect the demonstrators. The episode was the first time that uniformed officers used live ammunition since the protests began here nearly a month ago. Two protesters were killed in Sana several weeks ago by men in civilian clothes.
Tens of thousands of antigovernment demonstrators have assembled outside the university, and the number of protesters appears to increase each day. The gathering now stretches for more than a mile.
The demonstration turned violent on Tuesday night, when, according to witnesses, security forces wielding batons started to beat people who were carrying additional tents that they wanted to set up in the area of the sit-in. The officers then began to use tear gas and opened fire, the witnesses said.
“It was them, it was them who shot us,” Saleh al-Hashdi, 32, said of the security forces at the demonstration area. He said that he had been beaten by police officers and his head was bandaged with a blood-stained gauze.
The Yemeni government offered a different version of events. It said in a statement that the police had discovered some protesters trying to enter the demonstration area with automatic rifles hidden inside blankets and camping equipment.
“The suspects resisted arrest and soon thereafter a gunfight broke out, injuring dozens of suspected militants, policemen and innocent bystanders,” the statement said, adding that the Interior Ministry will investigate the episode.
The injured were rushed into a mosque that had been turned into a medical clinic, where volunteer doctors attended to them. In addition to those who were shot, at least 50 people appeared to have sustained other kinds of injuries, many of them from tear gas.
In addition to growing in size, the demonstrations here have become more diversified. Students and unemployed young people initially dominated the rallies, but now people from all segments of Yemeni society have joined in.
Tribesmen from Yemen’s north have come to the capital to add their voices to those calling for Mr. Saleh to leave office. These tribesmen contend that Mr. Saleh’s government has kept them poor and favored other tribes. Hisham al-Bakary from Khowlan, a tribal region east of Sana known for kidnapping and violence, said that he and his fellow tribesmen “came here peacefully, without our weapons.”
In other developments on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi appealed to rich Persian Gulf countries for $6 billion in additional aid to confront an economic crisis.
“The threats and conspiracies aimed at Yemen’s unity, security and stability pose a threat to the security of the region and the world,” Mr. Qirbi told a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to the official Saba news agency. The council is made up of prosperous Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s biggest financial backer. Yemen is not a member.
Mr. Qirbi said that Mr. Saleh was committed to dialogue with the political opposition and to introducing political reform, Saba reported.
Also, in a sign of Yemen’s expanding political crisis, three more politicians resigned from the governing party: two members of Parliament and Yemen’s most famous arms dealer, Faris Manna.
Mr. Saleh recently rejected a plan presented to him by Yemen’s political opposition in which he would leave office before the next presidential election in 2013. Protesters have vowed that they will not stop demonstrating until he steps down.
In addition, for the first time a large demonstration calling for the fall of the government was held on Tuesday in Dhamar, a governing party stronghold just south of Sana. Many senior government officials come from Dhamar, including the interior minister and the speaker of Parliament.