SANA, Yemen — Troops commanded by relatives of Yemen's outgoing president attacked a crowd of more than 100,000 protesters peacefully marching into the capital Saturday, killing at least nine and driving the president to promise to leave the country.
Yielding to pressure to defuse the country's turmoil, President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he would leave for the United States after forces overseen by his son and nephew opened fire on the protesters.
Saleh said he would eventually return and pursue "political work as an opposition figure."
The protesters had marched for four days and 200 miles on foot to pressure the government not to give Saleh immunity from prosecution, in the first march of its kind in the impoverished nation that is home to a dangerous al-Qaida offshoot. After protesters arrived at the southern entrances to the capital, forces of the elite Republican Guard fired on them with automatic weapons, tear gas and water cannons, sparking hours of clashes.
The violence illustrated the confusion in Yemen caused by the slow-motion exit of Saleh from power after 33 years of rule. After entrenching for months against massive protests across the country demanding his ouster, the president signed a deal in late November handing over his powers to the vice president and committing to leave office in return for immunity.
But Saleh retains his title and remains in the presidential palace, lauded as "his excellency the president" by state media controlled by his supporters.
The Republican Guard forces, led by Saleh's son Ahmed, and Central Security troops, led by his nephew, have defied orders from Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi that they pull back from positions in the streets of the capital.