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Renewed Bloodshed in Yemen Draws International Condemnation

September 19, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: New political turmoil and violence in the Arabian Peninsula nation of Yemen.

Ray Suarez has the story.

RAY SUAREZ: At least 50 people have been killed since Sunday, when government forces in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, fired on huge crowds demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

After more killing today, thousands of protesters and army defectors overran a key military base. Gunfire also echoed in the southern city of Taiz, as security forces held back protesters and armed vehicles sprayed crowds with water cannon and tear gas. At least one person was killed there. The renewed bloodshed brought new warnings from the international community, including British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

WILLIAM HAGUE, British Foreign Secretary: This situation, of course, has been simmering for a long time. This outbreak of intensified violence is very concerning. We call on all sides to desist from that violence and to come to an agreement for a political transition in Yemen.

RAY SUAREZ: The protests and violence flared on Friday after Saleh called for yet more talks on a deal for him to step down after 33 years in power. Saleh has balked at signing the deal three times already, but the U.S. State Department had said Thursday that an agreement was nearly complete.

It would give him immunity from prosecution for the deaths of hundreds of protesters since January. The Yemeni president has been living in Saudi Arabia since a June attack on his compound left him seriously wounded. The U.S. once saw Saleh as an ally in the fight against al-Qaida’s increasingly active branch in Yemen.

Washington withdrew its support as the protests built.