SANAA, Yemen – Thousands of Yemenis rallied the capital Sanaa on Saturday, urging authorities to release 117 protesters arrested during the yearlong popular uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Activist Fathi al-Baadani said the rally is also a protest against the government's sluggishness to release the detainees despite an order to review their cases and set them free.
The delay is due to the fact that Saleh's followers still hold influential security and military positions, Al-Baadani added.
Yemen's Human Rights Minister Huriya Mashhour confirmed the number of detained protesters on Saturday, but added that others are being held in unofficial detention centers. Youth groups behind the uprising that led to Saleh's ouster say that more than 80 people are detained in such unofficial centers.
Sanaa radio said Prime Minister Salem Mohammed Bassindwa expressed strong dissatisfaction with several military, security and intelligence institutions over the lack of action to free the prisoners.
The radio quoted Bassindwa as telling a group of youth representatives that he and President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had already instructed authorities to speed up the administrative process and free those held in unofficial detention centers.
Meanwhile, a security official said unidentified gunmen assassinated a security officer, Jaber Hadi Jaadan, in western of Sanaa on Friday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity according to regulations, said he did not know the reason behind the killing, but noted that it fell within a pattern of recent attacks on senior army and security officers by al-Qaida militants.
On Tuesday, unknown gunmen assassinated a security official in Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramaout province, while a day earlier, gunmen fired at the car of Yahya al-Arasy, President Hadi's press secretary. He escaped unharmed.
Earlier this month, Col. Abdullah al-Maouzaei, charged with hunting down members of al-Qaida, was killed when his vehicle blew up as he turned on the ignition outside his home in the southern port city of Aden. Lt. Col. Mohammed al-Qudami, who was the intelligence chief for one of the sectors of Sanaa, was killed in a similar way.
Maj. Gen. Salem Ali al-Quton, an army commander leading the fight against al-Qaida in the country's south, was killed last month in Aden by a suicide bomber while he was traveling in a three-car convoy.