Efforts to form new gov't underway following bloodshed that saw 52 protesters shot dead by snipers
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah
Saleh, who has seen a string of allies break ranks with him in
recent days, fired his government on Sunday, as he faced
increasing pressure from street protests to step down.
Mourners buried some of the 52 anti-government protesters
shot dead by rooftop snipers after Muslim Friday prayers in the
Arabian Peninsula state, where tens of thousands of people have
protested for weeks against Saleh's three decades-long rule.
"The president of the republic has dismissed the
government," state media said, adding that efforts to form a new
government were underway. No reasons was given for the move.
Friday's bloodshed prompted Saleh, struggling to preserve
his rule, to declare a state of emergency for 30 days that
restricts freedom of movement and the right to gather. It also
gives police more powers to make inspections and arrests.
Yemen's ambassador to the United Nations Abdullah Alsaidi
resigned his post on Sunday as defections picked up steam after
In Sanaa, mourners started burying the dead in side-by-side
graves in a small cemetery near a military camp.
Police, who protesters blame for the deaths, withdrew from
public sight near protest areas to be replaced by soldiers
dressed in camouflage uniforms but bearing only batons, in an
apparent bid to reduce tensions.
"This is an acknowledgment of the failure of the security in
repressing the revolution, and the crowds that came out today
are a signal of the readiness to put forth more sacrifices,"
opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabry said.
A government source said neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the
world's top oil exporter, had been trying to quietly mediate
even before Friday's shooting, and efforts were continuing.
Tanks stood guard near the presidential palace in Sanaa and
armoured vehicles were positioned outside sensitive locations.
But tension in the capital appeared lower, and ambulances
ferried the bodies, draped in Yemeni flags, to the cemetery. In
the protest camp near Sanaa University, mourners placed roses at
a site where five protesters died.
"We have one aim, but revolutions require sacrifices, and we
are willing to give more of our blood for our cause," said
Wassim al-Qudsi, a young man who was among the mourners.
Saleh, also trying to cement a northern truce and quell
southern separatism, has rejected demands to resign immediately,
promising instead to step down in 2013 and offering a new
constitution giving more powers to parliament.
Doctors said the death toll from the shooting rose to 52,
higher than the 25 deaths confirmed by the interior ministry.
Protesters said they had caught at least seven snipers
carrying government identity cards who they said had been
involved in the shooting, but Saleh denied this, blaming gunmen
among the protesters for the violence.
A string of his allies have since broken ranks to join
protesters frustrated by rampant corruption and soaring
unemployment. Some 40 percent of the population live on $2 a day
or less in Yemen, and a third face chronic hunger.
In addition to the UN envoy, Yemen's Minister for Human
Rights Houda al-Ban also resigned her post on Sunday, making her
the second cabinet member to defect since Friday.
"The critical situation prevents us from continuing in our
jobs under a regime that does not respect human rights and
freedoms," Ban said, speaking also on behalf of her deputy Ali
Tourism Minister Nabil Hasan al-Faqih resigned and quit the
ruling party on Friday. The head of the party's foreign affairs
committee also left, and on Sunday a deputy from Dalea province
left the party.
Two other prominent members of the ruling party also quit
including the head of the state news agency, Nasr Taha Mustafa.
A former ambassador, Abdul Malek al-Iryani, also declined an
invitation to join the Shura Council.
Washington, which sees Yemen as a key ally against a
resurgent al-Qaeda wing, said U.S. citizens should avoid areas
of planned demonstrations, which could turn violent. It has
already urged Americans to leave Yemen.
As unrest continued across Yemen, tribesmen fired
rocket-propelled grenades at a power plant in Maarib province on
Sunday, cutting electricity to parts of the capital and the
southern port city of Aden, a government source said.