More than 2,000 people have been killed in a year of political turmoil that led to the resignation of Yemen’s longtime president, the government disclosed Sunday. The number is much higher than human rights groups had estimated.
The government released its first casualty figures on a day when crowds of protesters were marking one year since a particularly bloody day, when dozens were killed.
Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights said the death toll includes unarmed protesters and military defectors, as well as more than 120 children. It said 22,000 people were wounded over the past year.
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International estimated this year that 200 protesters had been killed in the uprising.
The government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down as president last month after more than three decades in power, never released casualty figures.
For nearly a year, armed Saleh loyalists in plain clothes attacked anti-government demonstrators, while security forces did little to stop them.
Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis protested across the country Sunday to mark the killing of more than 50 protesters last year by snipers loyal to the former regime.
Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets Sunday in at least 18 provinces to demand that Saleh be tried in the deaths of protesters killed a year ago on “Friday of Dignity,” when snipers fired from rooftops in Sanaa’s Change Square.
As part of an internationally backed deal, Saleh was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for handing over power to his vice president.
Saleh’s successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, visited Change Square on Sunday and prayed at a cemetery where protesters were buried. He told youth demonstrators that he would fulfill the goals of their movement and decreed that families that lost relatives in the uprising would be given a monthly stipend.
Internal turmoil has led to a collapse of security in many parts of Yemen.
On Sunday, two men on a motorcycle who were in military uniforms fatally shot an American teacher working at a language institute in the central city of Taiz, said the region’s provincial governor, Hamoud al-Sufi.
Taiz is the second-largest city in Yemen and has been a center of anti-government demonstrations.
Sufi did not have details about the identity of the killers and said an investigation was in progress.
The head of security in Taiz, Ali Saidi, said the American, identified as Joel Wesley, was killed in his car when the assailants sped up next to him and opened fire. Wesley worked for two years at the Swiss Language Institute, financed by the International Training and Development Center. The center, established in Yemen in the 1970s, is one of the oldest foreign language institutes in the impoverished Arab country.
Further south, officials said a naval bombardment Sunday killed more than 16 al-Qaeda fighters in Zinjibar, capital of Aden province. Militants affiliated with al-Qaeda have taken advantage of the chaos in Yemen to seize control of cities and town in that area.
In another attack Sunday, medical officials said an aerial assault killed at least eight militants in Jaar, just north of Zinjibar. Both cities have been under al-Qaeda control since last spring. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information.
Residents said a civilian was wounded when an airstrike hit a post office used as a hospital in Jaar. The city’s main hospital was destroyed in a government bombardment last year.