One dead as Yemen police open fire on protesters

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 10:15 AM

By Mohamed Sudam

SANAA (Reuters) - One person died and scores were hurt on Sunday when Yemeni police fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters in Sanaa demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule, medical sources said.

Witnesses said most of the injured were suffering severe effects from tear gas but some were hit by bullets. Two were thought to be in serious condition in the clashes by Sanaa University where protesters have been camped out for days.

The United States sees Saleh as an important ally in its fight against a highly active al Qaeda cell based in impoverished Yemen, but has grown increasingly alarmed by the escalating violence and has called for dialogue.

Al Jazeera television showed medics treating Yemenis, covered in blood and coughing from tear gas exposure in a makeshift hospital where protesters have set up an encampment by the university, the epicenter of protests in the capital.

Several thousand people gathered there early on Sunday, setting up barricades in an effort to separate themselves from riot police who used water cannon.

They carried banners branding Saleh "Chemical Ali" in reference to the police's use of an apparent tear gas that doctors have said affects the nervous system. The Interior Ministry has denied the accusation.

Seven protesters were wounded during protests in al-Maafir in Taiz province and a protester died from shots fired by police during protests in the southern port of Aden on Saturday.

Abdelbari Dugheish, an Aden member of parliament from Saleh's ruling party, said he now supported the opposition. "The security forces are responsible for the loss of lives. They are firing at random and using excessive violence," he said.

AMBUSH

Four people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed in protests around Yemen on Saturday, bringing the total number of dead during two months of unrest to above 30.

On Sunday, a soldier was killed and two wounded in an ambush on a patrol near Zinjibar in south Yemen, a security source said. He blamed the attack on militants linked to al Qaeda.

The wave of protests, inspired by popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, has weakened Saleh's grip on Yemen. But he has steadfastly refused calls for his resignation, offering instead to re-write the constitution and transfer powers to parliament.

The United States has called for a "peaceful transition" of power in Yemen and urged Saleh's administration to investigate the wave of deaths and injuries.

"The U.S. government is strongly on record as defending the rights of citizens to demonstrate peacefully," the U.S. embassy in Sanaa said in a statement.

"The Embassy also rejects any allegation that the U.S. government has somehow condoned the use of violence by any side," it added, saying only dialogue would resolve the crisis.

Protesters in the faction-riven country, complain of rampant corruption and soaring unemployment and say change is needed to resolve their woes.

(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam, Mohammed Mukhashaf, Khaled Abdullah; Editing by Crispian Balmer)