A backer of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh kisses his portrait Thursday during a rally supporting him.AP PHOTO
SANAA, Yemen — Tens of thousands of demonstrators, some chanting “down, down with the regime,” marched Thursday in several towns and cities in Yemen against the country’s autocratic president, a key U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic militants.
Police opened fire and used tear gas to break up one of the marches, witnesses said, and security officials confirmed a demonstrator was critically wounded by police fire. Two others were also hurt in the eastern town of Mukalla, but further details were not immediately available.
In the capital of Sanaa, scuffles and stone-throwing briefly erupted between thousands of anti-government demonstrators and supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled for more than 30 years. However, police stepped in and there were no reports of injuries.
Security forces deployed in large numbers around the Interior Ministry and the Central Bank, and military helicopters hovered over some parts of the city.
Anti-government protests have erupted in several Arab countries in recent weeks. In Egypt, embattled President Hosni Mubarak is trying to cling to power until the end of his term in September, despite more than a week massive street protests demanding his immediate resignation.
In Yemen, protests erupted in several towns Thursday after Saleh moved earlier this week to defuse demands for his ouster by pledging not to seek another term in 2013 and not to allow his son inherit power.
Anti-government protesters said they don’t trust Saleh and demanded that he quit immediately.
“Thirty years of promises and thirty years of lies,” read one banner raised by marchers in Sanaa. Protesters chanted: “Down, down with the regime.”