SANAA, Yemen — Heavy shelling and machine-gun fire rocked Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Tuesday, on the third day of violence triggered by the deadliest crackdown yet on pro-democracy protesters, witnesses said.
Two rockets hit a protest camp, killing two and wounding five, witnesses told Reuters.
Shots rang out in the early hours of the morning, residents said, despite reports of a cease-fire between troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and soldiers who had defected to the opposition.
On Monday, thousands of protesters backed by military defectors seized a base of the elite Republican Guards, weakening the control of Yemen’s embattled president over this poor, fractured Arab nation. His forces fired on unarmed demonstrators elsewhere in the capital, killing scores, wounding hundreds and sparking international condemnation.
The protesters, joined by soldiers from the renegade 1st Armored Division, stormed the base without firing a single shot, according to witnesses and security officials. Some carried sticks and rocks. They used sandbags to erect barricades to protect their comrades from the possibility of weapons fire from inside the base, but none came and the Republican Guards eventually fled, leaving their weapons behind.
Story: Yemeni forces open fire on protesters, 26 killedAlthough the base was not particularly large — the Republican Guards have bigger ones in the capital and elsewhere in Yemen — its capture buoyed the protesters’ spirits and signaled what could be the start of the collapse of Saleh’s 33-year-old regime.
“It was unbelievable,” said protester Ameen Ali Saleh of storming the base on the west side of the major al-Zubairy road, which runs through the heart of Sanaa. “We acted like it was us who had the weapons, not the soldiers.”