Violence escalated in Yemen today as security forces shot dead 15 anti-regime protestors in the city of Taiz, south of the capital, as officials said embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh is likely to be eased out and offered a safe passage out of the country.
Violence erupted in Taiz after thousands of protestors marched through the city heading towards the Freedom Square, where youth demonstrators were staging a sit-in, Al Jazeera reported. The pan-Arab channel quoting provincial officials said that clashes broke out as the marchers passed the Governor's headquarters, where troops barred their way baton charging them, bursting teargas and then opened fire, killing 15 people on the spot.
"At least 15 people were killed by live bullets and hundreds lay wounded as troops on nearby rooftops opened fire with live ammunition," opposition activists said. There were also reports of regime loyalists in civilian clothes firing on protestors in Hudeida, west of Saana. As violence continued to inflame the strategically located country on the Red sea, US media report said the American government had dropped its backing to the beleaguered President and was helping to negotiate his exile in another country with members of his family. New York Times quoting the US and Yemeni officials said that Washington had almost finalised a deal to replace Saleh by his deputy Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi.
The change of regime in Yemen -- the third in an Arab country after Egypt and Tunisia -- was also backed by Gulf monarchies and the country's closest ally and banker Saudi Arabia. The Gulf foreign minister who met in Saudi capital of Riyadh in a statement said the "Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have agreed to begin contact with the Yemeni government and opposition to overcome the current situation."
The GCC supported the moves to work out a negotiated agreement to overcome the status quo. Their mediation offer comes a day after Yemen's opposition told the beleaguered President to hand over power to his deputy, whom they would accept as an interim president till fresh elections are held. The GCC also said in a significant statement that the "will and choices of the Yemeni people should be respected." The meeting was attended by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE - all GCC members.