Another bloody crackdown on Yemeni protesters has reportedly killed as many as 17 people, as news emerged that the U.S. had dropped its support for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a longtime ally.
Hundreds more were injured in the southern city of Taez on Monday as police, and army forces using tear gas and water cannon, and reportedly plain-clothes gunmen, moved in to disperse an anti-Saleh protest. The protesters had reportedly tried to storm a provincial government building.
Witnesses described gunmen on rooftops firing wildly on thousands of protesters who marched past the governor's headquarters in Taiz in the second straight day of violence in the southern city, NBC reports.
Another demonstrator was reported killed Sunday in Taez, when police opened fire on anti-government protesters.
Violence was also reported in the western city of Hudaida on Monday, with witnesses saying police fired bullets and tear gas at hundreds of protesters, wounding at least 50.
And in the capital Sanaa, thousands continued their protest in the Taghyeer square, a focal point of anti-Saleh demonstrations since late January that have become increasingly bloody.
Following the killing more than 50 people a week ago by Saleh loyalists, senior military commanders, lawmakers, Cabinet ministers, diplomats and provincial governors announced they were siding with protesters.
Yemen's opposition subsequently turned down Saleh's offer to step down by the end of the year, saying they did not trust him, and instead demanded that he leave immediately. They also called for constitutional change that would limit presidential terms. The president has been in power 32 years, and his current term ends in 2013.
On Sunday, according to NBC, Saleh said no negotiations could be held without a "halt to all protests and the mutiny by some units in the military."
"We are prepared to explore the peaceful transfer of authority in the framework of the constitution. But arm-twisting will absolutely not work," he reportedly said.
Unidentified U.S. and Yemeni officials, meanwhile, told the New York Times that Washington's position on Saleh had changed more than a week ago and it was negotiating the terms of his departure.
A Yemeni official told the Times the negotiations centered on a proposal in which Saleh would hand over power to a provisional government led by Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi until new elections are held.
U.S. officials have not publicly criticized the Yemeni leader, who has been seen as a key ally in U.S. efforts to fight terrorism.
The U.S. has provided Saleh with millions of dollars in counterterrorism aid to fight Al Qaeda's branch in the country, which has plotted attacks on American soil.
— Freya Petersen