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Violence continued to escalate in Yemen on Sunday as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to demand that President Ali Abdullah Saleh be removed from office and charged with crimes he committed during his presidency.
At least one protester was killed and another 14 injured by pro-government forces during the demonstrations. Sunday’s violence comes a day after as many as 50 people were killed by government forces in demonstrations, according to reports.
After spending three months in Saudi Arabia recuperating from a rocket attack, Mr. Saleh returned to Yemen on Friday. There was much speculation that Saudi officials would not allow Saleh to return unless he was committed to stepping down from power, but he appears to have returned without any such guarantees.
Now, with little indication that Saleh will step down and violence on the rise, there are renewed concerns that Yemen may be headed for an all out civil war. If the country continues in this direction, it will be of particular concern for Western nations worried about terrorist organizations who use Yemen as a safe haven.
“If Mr. Saleh does not start to transfer power to his opponents, ranging from pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets to senior tribal and military leaders, then the crisis in Yemen is likely to worsen rapidly,” writes Patrick Cockburn in an editorial for The Independent. “The long stand-off has already seen Yemen's traditionally weak central state further disintegrate.”
Saleh has called for peace talks and a return to a plan to end the fighting put forward months ago by the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional body of Persian Gulf countries. Saleh blames Yemen's opposition forces for the break down in talks, reports Bloomberg.
The United Nations Security Council has called for an end to the violence in Yemen, urging restraint from both sides as they work towards a solution.
“They called on all parties to move forward urgently in an inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led process of political transition,” wrote the UNSC in a statement republished by Al Arabiya. “The members of the Security Council expressed their grave concern at the continued serious deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation in Yemen. They were deeply concerned at the worsening security situation, including the threat from Al Qaeda in parts of Yemen.”
Civil war already?
Many in Yemen are already saying that a civil war has begun. The Yemen Observer ran an article headlined “Civil War starts in Yemen,” saying that both sides of the conflict are battling to gain territory from the other side, threatening the lives of demonstrators and civilians.
At least 144 people have been killed in demonstrations and violence throughout Yemen over the past seven days, reports Al Jazeera. Saleh’s rival, Major-General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar called on the international community to help remove the long reigning strongman from power. Mr. Al-Ahmar also compared Saleh to Roman Emperor Nero for burning down his own city and called him a “sick, vengeful soul.”
The return of Saleh appears to have given new life to the revolution in Yemen, reports The New York Times. During Saleh’s three-month absence, protests lost much of their fervor.
“We consider his return as a good thing, because it will give life to our revolution,” said Humaid Mansour, a law student in the article by The New York Times. “When he was in Saudi, people said, ‘OK, it’s over, he left.’ Now he came back. So now the goal is clear.”