Government security forces opened fire on peaceful anti-government protesters in several areas of the Yemeni port city of Aden on February 25, 2011, killing one demonstrator and wounding at least a dozen others, Human Rights Watch today.
The security forces opened fire in the afternoon in the al-Mu’alla district as more than 1,000 protesters chanting “peaceful, peaceful,” and carrying posters reading “peaceful” stopped about 100 meters from a line of approximately 100 military, police, and other security forces, the witness said. President Ali Abdullah Saleh had two days earlier promised to prevent clashes at anti-government demonstrations and protect the rights of protesters to assemble peacefully.
“Two days after President Saleh promised to halt all attacks on peaceful protesters, there is more bloodshed,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Other countries, including The United States, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia, need to press Yemen to stop these senseless and illegal attacks.”
At least one security officer stepped out and opened fire with a military assault weapon without giving a warning, the witness told Human Rights Watch. He said the gunman wore the gray uniform of the National Security Bureau. Police then immediately opened fire, shooting both into the air and straight at the crowd, and also fired teargas at the protesters, the witness said.
“Suddenly I heard screams, turned around, and saw two men on the ground,” the witness said. “One of them was shot in the head – he was lying on the ground face down, blood streaming from his head. He didn’t move. The other guy was screaming, ‘My arm! My arm!’ – he got two bullets in his shoulder.”
Security forces also opened fire without warning on another peaceful demonstration in the al-’Arish area of Aden, a human rights activist at the scene told Human Rights Watch. The activist said he saw at least five people fall to the ground after being hit by bullets, mostly in the legs.
Another witness told Human Rights Watch that at about 7 p.m., security forces shot randomly and fired teargas at several hundred people who began protesting in the Crater Area after police dispersed a crowd near the Aden Hotel. Protesters there set a police station on fire.
A doctor in one of the hospitals in Aden said that 11 people with bullet wounds were delivered to his hospital after the protests. Two others were taken to a second hospital, one of whom died from a head wound, while the other had a chest wound and was in critical condition. The protester who died at the hospital was Muhammad Ahmad Salih, media reports and local human rights activists said.
As of 10 p.m., shooting continued in several areas of Aden where uniformed security forces and men in civilian clothes carrying AK-47 assault rifles had deployed, a local activist at the scene said. He said that he saw police shooting at protesters in al-Mu’alla, the site of the fatal shooting earlier in the day.