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Saturday, 15 October 2011

Yemen security forces fire on protesters

Reports of at least 12 dead and many more wounded as security forces use live ammunition against protesters in Sanaa.
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2011 13:58

Demonstrators were marching towards Change Square, the focal point of protests in the capital [Al Jazeera]
Yemeni security forces have opened fire on anti-government demonstrators in the capital Sanaa, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens more, medics said.
Security forces used live rounds as well as tear gas and water cannons to try to disperse hundreds of thousands who were attempting to march on the city centre from their stronghold in Change Square, witnesses said on Saturday.
Protesters have been gathering in Sanaa for months to demand the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the embattled Yemeni president who continues to defy domestic and international pressure to quit.
A special correspondent in Yemen, who cannot be named for security reasons, said a huge rally was marching along a motorway in the north of the city towards the centre when they were attacked by pro-government supporters.
'Killed by snipers'
"It started off with a few sporadic shots with Kalashnikov [rifles], then the sound of heavy machine guns and heavy mortars," our correspondent said.
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"I have seen people rushed into the back of cars with blood pouring from their chests.
The protesters marched on, despite the shooting, reaching the Zubeiri (also known as Kentucky) roundabout, where clashes have repeatedly taken place over the last several weeks.
Our special correspondent said that the protesters were carrying olive leaves and none of them had appeared to be armed.
He said that he had seen "plainclothes pro-government loyalists being armed with batons and rocks" before the attack on the rally took place.
At a hospital where the injured are being treated, the medical authorities have run out of beds and are appealing for more supplies, particularly bandages and IV drips.
By 4:00pm local time (13:00 GMT), six hours after the march began, the shooting appeared to have stopped.
"What [the medical staff have] started doing is trying to shift some of the people who have been injured to other hospitals around the capital so that they can get proper treatment," our special correspondent said.
"But it's difficult, there are lots of soldiers on the streets of Sanaa today. There are checkpoints at nearly every major intersection, so even ambulances have been having difficulty getting the injured treated and getting them to hospitals quickly.
"Essentially, as I said, a very tense place to be at the moment, Sanaa. This was a huge protest that took place today, and I think it just completely overwhelmed the security forces."
State television reported that protesters had opened fire on civilians after taking out an "unauthorised" protest from Sitin Street to the Aser area.
Clashes between soldiers
In separate violence, forces loyal to President Saleh's elite Republican Guard unit have clashed with soldiers who have sided with the protesters, our correspondent said.
At least four people were killed in those clashes, with a further 13 (including at least six civilians) wounded.
Meanwhile, Tariq Noman, the chief surgeon at a field hospital in Sanaa, confirmed that they have received the bodies of protesters who were shot by security forces, as well as treated more than 100 injured people.
Noman told Al Jazeera that most of the dead were shot by by snipers in the head, the chest and neck.
Dr Mohammed al-Qubati, the coordinator at a field hospital, said that two bodies had been brought to his facility. A third body as later brought to the same facility, medics said.
The bodies of five more protesters were taken to the privately-run Science and Technology Hospital, and four more were taken to two other hospitals.
Each facility was dealing with dozens of injured people, medics said.
Doctors told Al Jazeera that they were in need of international help, our correspondent reported.
"A lot of Yemenis feel that the international community has been applying double standards: paying a lot of attention to Libya and Syria, but not really issuing really strong condemnations [on Yemen]."
According to a letter from Yemen's youth movement to the United Nations, sent earlier this month, at least 861 people have been killed and more than 25,000 wounded since mass protests began earlier in the year.
The government has urged the UN Security Council to avoid a resolution targetting President Saleh, which protesters have asked for, calling instead for a political solution to be backed.
Saleh has promised several times to abide by a Gulf Cooperation Council-backed plan to hand over power to his deputy, but has so far failed to do so.
Al Jazeera and agencies

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