Clashes Erupt at Yemen Rallies

Posted July 27th, 2011 at 3:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Government loyalists and anti-government protesters have clashed in Yemen where rallies unfolded across the country on Wednesday.

Witnesses say several people were injured in the southern town of Ibb when pro-government gunmen opened fire on demonstrators.

The Associated Press says security forces and loyalists with sticks attacked a group of female protesters as they rallied in front of the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a. The embassy released a statement saying it regrets the violence and that peaceful demonstrators should gather without fear of “violent reprisal.”

Witnesses say a large protest also took place in Taiz, Yemen's second largest city.

Demonstrators have been seeking an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule. The president remains in Saudi Arabia, where he is recovering from injuries sustained in a June bombing at his presidential compound.

Reuters news agency quotes Yemen's foreign minister as saying Wednesday that Mr. Saleh will only cede power through an election. The minister also said the country would fall into civil war if Mr. Saleh is forced out.

In a separate development, security officials and tribesmen in Yemen said al-Qaida-linked militants are demanding a $12 million ransom for three missing French aid workers.

The two women and one man disappeared in May in the eastern city of Sayoun, where they had been working with a French-based relief agency.

French and Yemen authorities previously said the aid workers were probably kidnapped but had no definite word on their status.