SANAA — Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s supporters armed with daggers and batons clashed violently with students Tuesday in Sanaa before police intervened, an AFP reporter said, adding five people were hurt.
About 1,000 students had spent a second night camped at a square near Sanaa university, dubbed Al-Huriya (Liberty) Square, where they on Tuesday erected a huge tent.
The crowd swelled to about 4,000 and as the protesters demanding Saleh’s ouster moved Tuesday morning from the square close to where Saleh’s loyalists are bunkered down, the group attacked them with daggers and batons.
The students, some of whom were also armed with batons, responded.
Three students and two of Saleh’s loyalists were wounded before police dispersed the crowd, the reporter said.
Loyalists demonstrating in support of Saleh in central Sanaa have almost daily broken up students protests using batons and stones, with police also using violence that has left scores of demonstrators injured.
The ruling General People’s Congress party meanwhile called for a “demonstration of millions” on Wednesday in Al-Sabiine square, near the presidential palace.
Also Tuesday, thousands of protesters took to the streets in several neighbourhoods of the southern city of Aden, calling on Saleh to step down.
Security forces fired warning shots to disperse protesters in Sheikh Osman, Al-Tawahi and Mualla neighbourhoods, but no casualties were reported, witnesses said.
According to an AFP tally based on reports by medics, 12 people have been killed and dozens more in Aden wounded since February 16.
The interior ministry on Monday put the death toll at four, according to the official Saba news agency.
A tribal leader in the country’s north told AFP Monday that tens of thousands also demonstrated in the group’s stronghold of Saada to demand the president step down.
The Zaidi Shiite rebel movement from 2004 fought six wars with Saleh’s government before signing a truce in February 2010.
Around a dozen opposition MPs, who vowed to take to the streets in a statement issued on Sunday, have also joined students who have been protesting for the past 10 days.
But in power for 32 years, Saleh vowed on Monday not to quit under popular pressure and accused his opponents of fuelling the demonstrations.
Saleh, whose long reign makes him one of the Middle East’s great survivors, said the protests were “not new.”
“If they want me to quit, I will only leave through the ballot box,” he told a news conference on Monday.