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Protests continue in Yemen

From Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
Thousands of protesters demonstrate against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa on February 24.
Thousands of protesters demonstrate against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa on February 24.
  • Protests are also reported in Aden, Taiz and Ibb
  • Government loyalists also come out in Tahrir Square
  • Opposition supporters are outside at Sanaa University
  • "We will not slow down" until the regime falls, one protester says

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Thousands of demonstrators, mostly students, lined the streets Friday outside Sanaa University as anti-government protests continued.

Anti-government throngs also hit the streets in Aden in southern Yemen, according to eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses reported that security forces tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas and attacked using batons -- an account authorities disputed.

The eyewitnesses said 11 demonstrators in Aden were wounded while one died of gunshot wounds. Authorities insisted no one had been killed.

Protests also were reported in the cities of Taiz and Ibb.

The protest in Sanaa, the capital, was countered by a pro-government demonstration on Tahrir Square, where thousands waved flags and held up pictures of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

We are joining the youth to be among them and not to lead them.
--Opposition party leader
  • Yemen
  • Sanaa

"We are gathering in support of President Saleh's initiative and to show the international community that we are with Saleh and that the opposition does not control the streets," Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Maueri said before the demonstration.

Anti-government protesters said they were looking for the regime to end.

"This protest and all the following protests are for the fall of the regime," said Noman Saleem, an anti-government demonstrator. "We will not slow down until it falls. Whether it takes place today or tomorrow, we are patient, and we will wait."

Hasam Zaid, general-secretary for the opposition Haq party, said the Sanaa University gathering is a "people's protest" that isn't being coordinated by any particular political party.

"We are joining the youth to be among them and not to lead them," he said.

Saleh has ruled Yemen since 1978. The country has been wracked by a Shiite Muslim uprising, a U.S.-aided crackdown on al Qaeda operatives and a looming shortage of water. High unemployment has fueled much of the anger among a growing young population steeped in poverty.

The protesters also cite government corruption and a lack of political freedom.

Saleh has promised not to run for president in the next round of elections, and he has said he supports the creation of a national unity government to oversee upcoming parliamentary elections.

But he has refused to step aside immediately. On Monday, he compared the anti-government protests to an illness sweeping through the region.

"This is a virus and is not part of our heritage or the culture of the Yemeni people," he told reporters. "It's a virus that came from Tunisia to Egypt. And to some regions, the scent of the fever is like influenza. As soon as you sit with someone who is infected, you'll be infected."

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