Massive crowd turns out to bury Yemen ‘martyrs’


SANAA – Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Yemeni capital Sunday for the funerals of some of the 52 people killed in a bloody crackdown on protesters by loyalists of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Around 30 bodies were laid out in neat rows and the square near Sanaa University overflowed with mourners, who massed under tight security and despite a two-day-old state of emergency.
The victims were killed Friday when pro-Saleh gunmen raked demonstrators in the square with bullets from surrounding rooftops, in an attack which more than doubled the death toll from a month of violent unrest to around 80.
Waving Yemeni flags and shouting slogans denouncing the regime, the mourners formed a massive procession as they carried the bodies in coffins on their shoulders to the cemetery. “Ali, the blood of the martyrs will not be in vain!” they chanted, referring to the president. “We sacrifice blood and soul for you, oh martyr,” they roared in tribute to the dead. Politicians and civil society representatives joined the throng. Ali Abed Rabbo al-Qadi, the head of the independent parliamentary bloc who was in the crowd, said those responsible for the killings must be “held responsible for every drop of blood that has been shed.”
Muslim clerics called on Yemeni soldiers to disobey orders to shoot demonstrators, and blamed Saleh — in power since 1978 — for the slaughter on Friday. “We call on the army and security forces to not carry out any order from anyone to kill and repress” demonstrators, a group of influential clerics in the deeply religious country said in a joint statement.
They also called for Saleh’s elite Republican Guard troops to be withdrawn from the capital, where protesters have defied the state of emergency called after Friday’s violence and continued a sit-in. Saleh had declared Sunday a national day of mourning for the “martyrs for democracy,” while blaming the opposition for “incitement and chaos” that had led to the killings.