Yemeni police attack 1,000s of female protesters

A Yemeni girl gestures wearing a headband with Arabic reading " Don't kill my father" while standing in front of female anti-government protesters during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa,Yemen, Saturday, April 2, 2011.
AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen

SANAA, Yemen - Thousands of women calling for the ouster of Yemen's longtime ruler were attacked on Sunday by police with sticks and rocks, setting off a furious battle with male protesters that left several people hurt, activists said.

The women were marching down a main street in the southern town of Taiz shouting "peaceful! peaceful!" when they were attacked, activist Ghazi al-Samei said.

Three of the young men suffered serious gunshot wounds when police opened fire, protester Bushra al-Maqtari told The Associated Press by telephone. She said over 200 more suffered breathing problems caused by inhaling tear gas.

Army tanks and armored cars stopped other demonstrators from entering Taiz, the site of some of the largest and angriest protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule.

Complete coverage: Anger in the Arab World

Protesters have been camping out in main squares throughout Yemen for weeks, demanding Saleh immediately leave power after 30 years. The president has offered to resign by the year's end and says leaving without a negotiated transition, would lead to chaos. On Saturday, opposition groups demanded he hand power to his vice president and set up committees to thrash out constitutional reform and elections.

The president's spokesman, Ahmed al-Sufi, said Sunday that the president is only "ready to discuss the peaceful handover of power according to the constitution."

Saleh's top security official in Taiz, Abdullah Qiran, to oversee security in Taiz, is accused by demonstrators of orchestrating some of the most brutal crackdowns against demonstrators, particularly in the southern port town of Aden, where he was previously stationed.

There, some 48 demonstrators were killed over a period of weeks by security forces and Saleh supporters armed with sticks, knives and guns.

At least 97 demonstrators have been killed in Yemen since protests began on Feb. 11, according to the Yemeni rights group Shakayek. About 49 were killed several weeks ago when snipers on rooftops opened fire at demonstrators in the capital, Sanaa.