Five killed in attack on protest against immunity for Saleh
Street protests and violence continue to rock Yemen despite President Ali Abdullah Saleh committing to a deal that will end his 33-year rule.
On Thursday, it appeared that the deal — brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — which obliges Mr. Saleh to step down in 30 days, was not enough to calm protesters, who have been seeking a fundamental change in their impoverished country.
In the capital, Sana'a, at least five people were killed while protesting against the immunity from prosecution for Mr. Saleh, a crucial aspect of the deal. Gunmen shooting from rooftops and passing vehicles killed and injured dissidents, said medical staff at a mosque that served as a makeshift hospital.
Under the deal signed in Riyadh, Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi will head a national unity government to steer the political transition after Mr. Saleh demits office. Presidential elections are to be held within 90 days. Till then Mr. Saleh will hold the title of honorary President.
The formation of a military commission to unite Yemen's disparate armed forces is also expected.
While the Riyadh agreement appears groundbreaking, as it topples yet another dictator post-Arab Spring, it has not generated large-scale, spontaneous celebrations. Some analysts say the relatively tepid response can be attributed to the inability of the deal to bring on board significant stakeholders in Yemeni society, especially the youth who have been clamouring for a “revolution”. Important minorities in northern Yemen, such as ethnic Houthis, who are Shias, and representatives of the southern separatist movement also seem to have been left out of the negotiations. Nevertheless, the agreement did seem to generate a sense of partial accomplishment in some sections. Analyst Abdulkader Alguneid tweeted: “Phase I, accomplished. Next finding our way towards Civil State, while sorting ourselves out and tidying the place up.”
Earlier this week, the United Nations envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, met Mohsen al-Ahmar, the dissident General whose cooperation is vital to sustaining the peace deal. General Mohsen's forces, deploying heavy weaponry, have been staging lethal street battles with government forces, pushing Yemen to the brink of civil war.
It is as yet unclear whether Mr. Saleh will return to his home base or travel abroad. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that Mr. Saleh told him that he intended to travel to New York to seek medical treatment for the serious burn injuries he sustained in a rocket attack.