Yemen Cleric: ‘An Islamic State Is Coming’

In Yemen today, thousands continued to demonstrate throughout the country, one day after opposition groups rejected President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s offer to form a unity government. Demonstrators and opposition groups are calling for an immediate end to Saleh’s three-decade rule.

Tens of thousands filling Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, chanted “the people want the downfall of the regime.” Other cities, including Ibb and Taiz, also reported demonstrators numbering in the tens of thousands.

Saleh lashed out at the United States today, accusing it of instigating protests and coordinating with opposition groups and complained of Washington’s pressure on Arab leaders to respond to protesters with restraint.

“Every day we hear a statement from Obama saying ‘Egypt you can’t do this, Tunisia don’t do that’,” Saleh said. “What do you have to do with Egypt? Or Oman? Are you the president of the United States, or president of the world?”

A hardline Muslim cleric linked to al-Qaeda by the US, Sheikh Abdul-Majid al-Zindani, joined protesters on the streets of Sana’a.

Zindani, a former mentor of Osama bin Laden, had publicly backed Saleh two weeks ago. He described the fervor for reform as an opportunity to set up an Islamic state in Yemen.

“An Islamic state is coming,” Zindani told a crowd in Sana’a, drawing cries of “God is great.”

Also today, the Yemen government reported that two soldiers were killed in in the country’s separatist south where security forces have come under frequent attack in recent days.

Human Rights Watch has said at least eight people detained by Yemen security forces last month, several of them southern separatists, had disappeared. At least 24 protesters were killed in the past two weeks of protests.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a US ally against al Qaeda’s Yemeni wing, has failed to mollify protesters angry at a laundry list of complaints, including widespread corruption, university graduates unable to get jobs without connections, and high youth unemployment. The country also faces separate rebellions in both its northern and southern regions.

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