Yemen rebels say army fired rockets at protesters

AFP, Reuters and Ahram Online, Friday 4 Mar 2011

Soldiers open fire on protesters a day after opposition offers Saleh smooth exit

An elderly anti-government protestor carried by others reacts during a demonstration in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, (AP).

Yemeni soldiers killed two protesters and wounded at least nine others Friday when they opened fire on an anti-regime rally in the northern province of Amran, a Shiite rebel leader told AFP.

"Two protesters were killed and nine others were wounded when soldiers opened fire from a military position on the demonstration calling for (President Ali Abdullah) Saleh's departure," said the rebel leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Other rebels in northern Yemen said the military fired rockets at their anti-government protests on Friday and killed two.

"During a peaceful protest this Friday morning ... demanding the fall of the regime, an end to corruption and political change, a military site fired rockets at a group of protesters and hit dozens of people," a statement from the rebels said.

The shooting, which comes a day after opposition and religious leaders offered Saleh a smooth exit from power by the end of 2011, took place in the village of Semla, 170 kilometres (105 miles) from the capital Sanaa.

It was also reported on the rebels' news website, which said the troops "killed and wounded dozens" when they shot at them from a position inside Semla.

The protesters had taken to the streets of the nearby town of Harf Sufyan to criticise corruption and call for a regime change after 30 years of rule by Saleh, said the website.

Demonstrations in Yemen spread throughout the country, with both Sunnis and Shia calling for the ousting of Saleh.

Saleh's government has been rocked by a wave of protests in which at least 19 people have been killed since 16 February, according to an AFP toll based on reports and witnesses.

The protests have been inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that forced the resignations of their respective longtime leaders, Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Last week, the embattled Yemeni president vowed to defend his three-decade regime "with every drop of blood," accusing his opponents of hijacking protests in a ploy to split the nation

He also accused his opponents of trying to revive secessionist efforts which sparked a short-lived civil war in 1994 that ended with the south being overrun by northern troops.

Protests which have been focused in Sanaa and the southern city of Aden, where 12 people have been killed in anti-government protests since 16 February, have also spread to the north.

Yemen's mountainous northern region is stronghold of the Zaidi rebel movement, which from 2004 fought six wars with Saleh's government before signing a truce in February 2010.

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