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Anti-Government Movements Gain Traction as Yemen, Libya Face Crackdown


By Suzanne Presto

Middle East
Middle East

As pro-democracy movements gain momentum in the region, Yemen and Libya are cracking down on the protest movements that have been growing within their borders during the past week.

Popular uprisings continue to spread through the regions of North African and the Middle East.

In Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, protests turned violent Saturday as anti-government and pro-government activists clashed on the streets.

Stone throwing and gunfire erupted, but an official tally of wounded or dead has not been released. At least one anti-government protester was reported killed.

Activists are protesting against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years.

Protests have gained momentum this month in impoverished Yemen, and they are not limited to the capital. The New York-based Human Rights Watch says Yemeni human rights activists report that at least three people were killed and 80 wounded on Friday alone. One fatal attack involved an unknown assailant who threw a hand grenade at protesters in the southwestern city of Taizz.

Elsewhere in the region, the Libyan government is sharply cracking down on activists who are calling for political reform and an end to Moammar Gadhafi’s more than four decades in power.

Human Rights Watch says at least 84 people have been killed since Wednesday as protesters take to the streets in a number of eastern Libyan cities, where there is less support for Mr. Gadhafi. The rights group says hospital sources in the eastern city of Benghazi say they have received numerous bodies with gunshot wounds.

Activists in North Africa and the Middle East are emboldened by protests elsewhere in the region, most notably Egypt and Tunisia, where popular uprisings have unseated longtime leaders. Egyptians on Friday celebrated the one-week anniversary of President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Just over a month ago, Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, bringing his 23 years in power to an end.

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