In Yemen, throngs rail against president

Thousands of Yemeni anti-government protesters demonstrate against President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa on 4 October.

Story highlights

  • Eyewitnesses report huge crowds, possibly into the millions
  • The protesters hail a former North Yemen president
  • Opposition members want a "firm stance" from the Security Council
Massive anti-government protests spread across Yemen on Friday as demonstrators called for the departure of the country's embattled president and his allies.
Activists dubbed the day "the Friday of al-Hamdi," a reference to Ibrahim al-Hamdi, a popular former president of North Yemen who was slain in 1977. North and South Yemen merged into the Republic of Yemen in 1990.
The estimated number of protesters across the country totaled three million, with 800,000 alone in the capital of Sanaa, according to a count of numbers from eyewitnesses. That count could not be verified independently.
People in the south as well as the north hailed al-Hamdi and called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave government.
Yasser al-Nahmi, a youth activist in Sanaa, said al-Hamdi's mission decades ago was to lead Yemen in the right direction.
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"Yemen wants a leader like him and not an oppressor like Saleh," he said.
Demonstrators and world powers have called for months for Saleh's departure and a transition of power. The Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional bloc of Gulf Arab nations, hammered out a transition plan months ago, but it hasn't yet been adopted.
Activists want to hold a mock funeral to mourn the failure of the GCC proposal.
Meanwhile, the Joint Meeting parties opposition bloc called for the U.N. Security Council to "take a firm stance for the killing of protesters," said Mohammed Qahtan, JMP spokesman.
Before the demonstrations, government forces cracked down on pro-opposition gunmen, eyewitnesses said.
Gunmen loyal to the Ahmar tribe and Republican Guards in Hasaba district of the capital traded fire. But no casualties were reported, despite the use of mortar shells and other heavy artillery.
In Taiz, government forces moved onto protesters before the demonstration there. Residents reported more shelling and more destruction of private property and businesses near that city's Liberty Square, in what is an recent increase of violence amid an intensified government crackdown.