As expected, tens of thousands of Yemenis have gathered in the capital city of Sanaa to express their antipathy to the regime of the President Ali Abdullah Saleh, continuing weeks of a protest campaign.
According to Al Jazeera, Friday’s rallies appears to be the largest demonstration seen in Yemen during the past seven weeks of unrest.
There are also reports of anti-government marches across the small, poverty-stricken nation.
However, supporters of the president have also assembled in Sanaa, sparking concerns of potential clashes between the two groups. According to state-controlled television, thousands of Saleh backers demonstrated near the presidential palace waving banners and flags.
We stand with the legality of the constitution, we're against chaos and sabotage. And those collaborators [anti-Saleh protesters] want to turn Yemen into another Iraq, a pro-government demonstrator told Reuters.
Reportedly, Saleh addressed his supporters and told them: I pledge to sacrifice myself for the people, with my blood and with everything I hold dear.”
Al Jazeera reported that government troops fired shots into the air to prevent the two rival groups from coming near each other in Sanaa’s city center.
State security officers have also been posted at strategic checkpoints in other areas of the city, while army tanks are patrolling some streets.
Meanwhile, as Saleh remains determined to stay on as president at least until the end of the year, opposition groups demand his immediate resignation, citing, among other things, that the regime has done little to alleviate poverty in the country.
The Yemeni president, who has been in power for more than three decades, has been a key US ally, partly due to his efforts to root out Al-Qaeda terrorists in the hinterlands. The US remains wary of the Yemeni opposition groups, concerned that it may include hard-core Islamist elements.
Saleh has long insisted that without him in power, Yemen would deteriorate into chaos and civil war.