SANAA, Yemen – Yemeni residents in scores of cities and towns across the nation launched a civil disobedience campaign Wednesday to bring down the country's long-serving president, activists said.
The campaign is the latest in Yemen's uprising that started in early February, inspired by revolts across the Arab world. Massive near-daily protests have called for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country's ruler of 32 years.
According to opposition activists, residents in at least 18 cities and towns got involved in the disobedience campaign, with shops and schools closed and government offices shuttered. The daylong closures are planned twice weekly until Saleh goes, activists said.
Saleh has clung on to power despite the street protests and defections by many loyalist, including his tribesmen, military officers and ranking government figures. More than 130 people have been killed by security forces and Saleh's supporters since the unrest erupted.
Wednesday also saw deadly violence.
In the southern port city of Aden, units of the Republican Guard clashed with anti-government demonstrators who were marking the anniversary of the 1994 outbreak of Yemen's civil war that saw Saleh's army suppress an attempt by the southerners to secede.
One protester was killed and dozens were wounded in the violence Wednesday that involved tanks, armored cars and heavy weapons, according to local activist Wajdi al-Shaabi.
Elsewhere, two soldiers were killed and three others wounded when masked gunmen attacked a military checkpoint at the entrance of Zinjibar, the capital of southern Abyan province that has been a hotbed for Islamic militants.
Col. Ahmed al-Muhsini of Zinjibar intelligence office confirmed the attack over the telephone and told The Associated Press that the assailants fled afterward.
Yemen, along with prevailing poverty, rampant corruption and lawlessness, southern secessionism and a Shiite uprising in the north, has also had to deal with brazen militant attacks and a resurgent al-Qaida branch that has been active both inside the country and beyond its borders.
And in the country's second largest city, Taiz, tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated Wednesday in main streets against a Gulf Arab initiative which gives Saleh and his family immunity against prosecution, activist Nouh al-Wafi said.
The authors of the initiative, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, will meet Sunday in the Saudi capital Riyadh where its foreign ministers are to fine-tune the draft proposal for ending Yemen's crisis.
Yemen's opposition parties said Tuesday they will soon sign the deal, which Saleh has already agreed to. It calls for the creation of national unity government and would have Saleh transfer power to his vice president within 30 days of the signing of the deal. In exchange, Saleh and his family would received immunity from prosecution.
But the proposal, appears to have opened a serious rift between opposition parties and the hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets, who are suspicious and instead demand Saleh's immediate resignation.