by Mohamed al-Azaki, Wang Qiuyun
Government supporters gather in Sanna, capital of Yemen, Feb. 18, 2011. Over 2,000 policemen were deployed to break up a bloody fighting in Al-Zubairy Street near downtown Sanaa between thousands of anti-government protesters and hundreds of government supporters wielding knives, batons and rocks, leaving at least 12 injured, including reporters of foreign media, a Xinhua reporter said. (Xinhua/Yin Ke)
SANAA, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Three anti-government protesters were killed and about 76 were wounded on Friday in fierce clashes between pro-and anti-government demonstrators that rattled Yemen's major cities of Taiz, Aden and Sanaa.
Around 8,000 supporters with daggers, batons and stones attacked over 10,000 anti-government protesters near downtown Taiz, as some of the government backers aboard a car hurled a hand grenade, killing two protesters and injuring more than 20 others, some in critical conditions, eyewitness and medical sources said.
The Yemeni government has deployed nearly 5,000 soldiers to interrupt the clashes in the city, some 200 km south of Sanaa, according to a police officer who asked not to be named.
"It took the security forces around two hours to disperse both pro- and anti-government rallies, but tensions are still high following the bombing attack which the opposition parties blamed on the ruling party," the security official said.
Elsewhere in Aden, one anti-government protester was shot dead and 44 others were injured on Friday.
About 7,000 protesters stormed into two buildings of the local government in Yemen's southern port city of Aden and set them on fire Friday evening, a local official told Xinhua.
The protesters gathered in the neighborhood in Shaikh Othman town in Aden, rushed to two local council buildings and a police station and set them on fire, leaving four people injured, the official said.
The police station was burned, a security official said.
Earlier Friday, clashes took place in the districts of Khour Maksar and Al-Mansoura of Aden, as riot policemen fired into the air warning the two rallies of several thousands protesters away from some governmental facilities, leaving one killed and 40 others injured.
In the capital of Sanaa, over 2,000 policemen were deployed to break up a bloody fighting in Al-Zubairy Street near downtown Sanaa between thousands of anti-government protesters and hundreds of government supporters wielding knives, batons and rocks, leaving at least 12 injured, including reporters of foreign media, a Xinhua reporter said.
Armed government backers were laying a siege to the anti- government demonstrators as policemen apparently failed to disperse the rallies or to break up the melee.
Government backers also blockaded a number of foreign media's reporters and cameramen, including Xinhua correspondent, threatening to beat them and smash their cameras.
Inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian protests that forced the presidents out of power, thousands of Yemeni anti-government protesters have taken to streets of the country's major cities since last Friday, demanding political and economic reforms as well as calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh, who has been in power for more than 30 years, said earlier this month that he would not seek re-election or pass power to his son. He also pledged to freeze all the controversial constitutional amendments which could allow him to be president for life.
The Yemeni opposition said in a statement a week after Saleh's offer that they accepted the president's initiative and was ready to "engage in the national dialogue with the ruling party in order to drive the country into the safe level."
A leading opposition official told Xinhua on Friday that the national dialogue with the ruling General People's Congress party will resume in the next few days. The official, who asked not to be named, did not elaborate further.
The current turmoil added extra uncertainty to the poor African country, which was already undermined by a Shiite rebellion in the north, a growing separatist movement in the south and a resurgence of terrorist threats throughout the country.
Northern Shiite armed rebels vowed last Tuesday that they would support protesters against President Saleh if the "revolution breaks out."