Protesters, police clash in south Yemen
A gunbattle between Yemeni police and southern separatists on Friday killed three and wounded 18, as protesters nationwide denounced a plan granting the president immunity from prosecution, medics and police said.
"Two protesters were killed and 15 others were wounded," a medical official from Naqib hospital in the main southern city of Aden said.
A security official said that "Zaid Muthana al-Harithi, a policeman, was killed by live rounds."
Three other policemen were wounded, a police official said.
Mohammed al-Abadi, an activist from the separatist Southern Movement had said earlier that "Shakib Suleiman Hasan and an elderly man were killed and 10 other protesters wounded when police opened fire on a demonstration" in Khor Maksar district in Aden.
Witnesses said police fired tear gas and live rounds at thousands who demonstrated to call for secession and to reject a Gulf-brokered plan that grants President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution when he steps down.
Gunmen among the protesters returned fire, the same sources said.
Later in the afternoon witnesses said that police forces -- who said they intervened because of the "sensitivity of the location" -- regained control of Al-Arud where the gathering took place.
The square is close to consulates, UN offices and security headquarters, a police official told AFP. "We allowed them to gather at the beginning but later they began to spread so we had to intervene."
The Southern Movement protesters also called for separation on the anniversary of internal clashes on January 13, 1986 between factions of the Yemeni Socialist Party that ruled the south of Yemen -- an independent state at the time.
"The Southern Movement is boycotting the upcoming presidential elections across all southern provinces," read their banners. "The Gulf Initiative does not concern us."
Based on a Gulf plan, Saleh will remain an honorary president until February 21 when Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi will officially replace him.
"The southerners affirm that they reject the elections and the Gulf initiative and hold on to their demand for the secession of the south," said Khaled Awadh, a Southern Movement activist and one of the organisers.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands protested in Sanaa and 17 other provinces calling for unity between Yemenis and rejecting the immunity deal.
"No north. No south. Our unity is in the hearts," their banners read. "The Yemenis have decided, they must be freed."
In addition to southerners' calls for separation, Shiites and Sunni extremists have clashed in the north, while youths in the capital's Change Square have fought over the Gulf deal signed by the parliamentary opposition.
A security official said 20 gunmen were killed Thursday in clashes between Zaidi Shiite rebels and Sunni Salafist gunmen in northern Yemen.
Protesters, whose ranks have seen hundreds of deaths in the crackdown by Saleh's forces on their movement since last January, want those accused of killing demonstrators to face justice.
"No immunity, no guarantee to Saleh and his aides," they chanted.
The immunity law was drafted on Sunday by the transitional government that was formed after Saleh signed the Gulf plan. Parliament has yet to convene to ratify the law.