YEMEN: Protest turns deadly 18Mar11 March 19, 2011

Aljazeera -  18 March 2011

At least 30 people have been killed and scores wounded after Yemeni security forces opened fire on protesters at University square, in the capital Sanaa.

Security forces opened fire on Friday, in attempts to prevent protesters from marching out of the square where they were gathered, sources said. Medical sources said the death toll was likely to rise.

Pro-government “thugs” also opened fire on protesters from houses close to University square, witnesses told the AFP news agency.

Friday’s attack came as tens of thousands gathered across the country, continuing to demand that president Ali Abdullah Saleh – the country’s ruler of 32 years – step down.

Al Jazeera correspondents in Sanaa reported that many protesters were shot in the head and neck; most of the injured were shot with live ammunition.

Medics at a nearby medical centre told Al Jazeera almost 200 people were injured; many were in critical condition. One medic called the attack a “massacre”.

Anti-government demonstrations were also held in other cities including Taiz, Ibb, Hodeidah, Aden, and Amran following Muslim midday prayers on Friday.

Standing firm

Ahead of the protests, hundreds of police patrolled the streets of Sanaa and elite forces set up fortifications around the presidential compound, ministries and the headquarters of Yemen’s ruling party.

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Government forces have previously used live fire, rubber bullets, and tear gas on anti-regime rallies, in the government’s increasingly violent crackdown on protests.

Police used live fire and teargas on protesters in Taiz on Thursday, leaving many wounded.

At the same time, at least 20 people were injured in Sanaa, as security forces fired on demonstrators camping outside the university.

This came a day after at least 120 people were wounded in clashes in the port city of al-Hudayah.

Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula state neighbouring oil giant Saudi Arabia, has been hit by weeks of protests set in motion by uprisings in North Africa that toppled long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and spread to the Gulf states of Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Saleh has maintained a firm grip on power for over three decades and has scoffed at calls to step down, saying he will only do so when his current term of office expires in 2013.

Despite violence and threats, anti-government protesters refuse to cease demonstrating until Saleh’s ouster.

On Wednesday, the opposition urged the president to “hand the power over to the people”, after they rejected his offer last week of constitutional reforms.

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