SANAA (Reuters) – Yemeni forces opened fire on protesters blockading a government building on Monday, killing a shopkeeper in a city that has seen some of the largest rallies seeking to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh, witnesses said.
At least 10 protesters were wounded when security forces, some in armored vehicles, moved in to quell the rally in the city of Taiz, south of the capital Sanaa.
“A large force of police and army attacked protesters and then chased them in residential areas. They opened fire and used tear gas heavily,” said Bushra al-Maqtari, an activist in Taiz.
The shopkeeper who ran a small kiosk was killed by a stray bullet, and heavy gunfire was heard in the area.
Tension has risen in the Arabian Peninsula state since a Gulf-mediated plan to end Yemen’s political crisis by easing Saleh out of power within a month appeared to be close to collapse after the president refused to sign.
Saleh has clung to power despite three months of street protests that regularly draw tens of thousands of people, even though many of his allies have deserted him including a general who is now in the protesters’ camp.
Yemen’s main opposition said the Gulf deal had been modified to allow Saleh to sign as party leader rather than president, as he demands. It now wants Gulf states, which are holding a summit in Riyadh on Tuesday, to press Saleh to relinquish power.
But Yemeni youth groups leading mass protests have called on Gulf Arab states to withdraw the plan.
Thousands of protesters had gathered outside an education ministry building in Taiz on Sunday, many of them teachers and students, demanding the postponement of school exams. Some also chanted anti-Saleh slogans.
Security forces tried to break up the demonstration on Sunday evening, killing two. But the protesters regrouped overnight before the forces moved in to disperse them on Monday, witnesses said.
Many demonstrators across Yemen, who include students, tribesmen and activists, have vowed to stay on the streets until Saleh steps down. About 150 people have been killed in the unrest.