Middle East

Yemen: Huge turnout for protesters' funerals

Mourners in Sanaa, Yemen, 20 March 2011
Image caption Mourners gathered around the bodies of slain protesters

Tens of thousands of people have turned out in Yemen at funerals for dozens of protesters shot dead on Friday.

Mourners in the capital, Sanaa, gathered in a square near Sanaa University, the scene of the crackdown.

Meanwhile, Yemen's ambassador to the UN has become the latest official to resign in protest at the killings.

At least 45 people were killed and 270 injured on Friday after gunmen in civilian clothes fired on an anti-government rally in the capital, Sanaa.

Witnesses said the gathering at Sunday's funerals was the largest since an opposition movement began in Yemen late January, AFP news agency reported.

"Ali, the blood of the martyrs will not be in vain," the mourners were quoted as chanting, in reference to the President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Opposition parties that joined the procession said they had changed their position from a demand for political reform to a demand of President Saleh's departure, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Demonstrations were also reported in several other regions.

President Saleh has declared a state of emergency, but he called a national day of mourning on Sunday to honour the "martyrs for democracy".

He has blamed the opposition for "incitement and chaos" that he claimed had led to Friday's deaths.

But he has faced a string of resignations over the crackdown, with Yemen's ambassador to the UN Abdullah Alsaidi becoming the latest to step down on Sunday.

His resignation followed those of the ministers for human rights and tourism, several senior ruling party officials, the head of the state news agency, and the Yemeni ambassador to Lebanon.

President Saleh has been in power for 32 years. He has recently been challenged by a separatist movement in the south, a branch of al-Qaeda, and a periodic conflict with Shia tribes in the north.

He has promised political reforms and said he will not seek another term in office in 2013, but has also vowed to defend his regime "with every drop of blood".

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