SANAA, Yemen — Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters packed the streets of cities throughout Yemen Wednesday, demanding the president’s ouster and blaming him for a munitions factory blast that left at least 100 people dead.
Enraged men chanted as they walked toward public squares in Sanaa and elsewhere, waving their national black-white-and-red flag. Many sported green bandannas wrapped around their heads, emblazoned with the word “leave,” while others scrawled the word on their palms, waving their hands in the air.
Mass protests have been shaking Yemen for weeks, with demonstrators inspired by successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia seeking the ouster of their own autocratic ruler, President Ali Abdullah Saleh who has served for 32 years.
Wednesday’s demonstrations ratcheted up the pressure, spreading beyond the traditional gatherings in the capital, the port city of Aden and the town of Taiz to include Saada, where Shiite rebels have fought Saleh’s forces for years, Marib, an al-Qaida stronghold and the southern province of Abyan where Islamic militants have seized power in some areas.