Two Yemeni protesters die of wounds, rallies continue

Reuters , Sunday 13 Mar 2011

Two anti-regime protesters died on Sunday a day after police shot them in the head raising the death toll to seven from demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh

An anti-government protester suffering from the effect of the tear gas is helped by others following clashes with Yemeni police in Sanaa, Saturday, (AP).

Two anti-regime protesters died on Sunday, a day after police shot them in the head, a medic said, raising the death toll to seven from demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The two succumbed to wounds after "being shot in the head" in the southern city of Aden, said the medic, adding four other demonstrators were in a critical condition after also being shot in the head.

A medical official said Saturday hundreds of angry people had set ablaze the police station to protest the death of the protester earlier in the day. Several people were also wounded by gunfire, he said.

Elsewhere, a 12-year-old schoolboy was shot dead when police opened fire at a demonstration of students in the southeastern city of Mukalla.

Two other people died in the capital Sanaa on Saturday, one as police attacked demonstrators in University Square, where anti-government protesters have been staging a sit-in since February 21.

The other was shot dead by a sniper while walking to the square with a group of protesters.

Two doctors at the scene in Sanaa said that toxic gas, rather than ordinary tear gas had been used against the protesters, a claim dismissed as slander by the authorities.

The European Union, Britain and the United Nations condemned the brutal crackdown.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton urged Saleh's government to honour promises he had made this week to protect demonstrators and uphold their right to free assembly.

The United States, which sees Saleh as an important ally in its fight against a highly active al Qaeda cell based in Yemen, said it was dismayed by the bloodshed and called for calm.

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.

Neither Saleh nor his opponents looked ready to back down in a confrontation that has killed more than 30 over the past two months.

Several thousand people gathered outside Sanaa University on Sunday, the epicentre of protests in the capital, setting up barricades to separate themselves from dozens of riot police who stood at a distance alongside 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.

On Saturday, police fired volleys of tear gas and water cannon in a pre-dawn operation aimed at preventing a protester camp from expanding. The crowds responded with a hail of rocks and live ammunition was fired.

The United States 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.

A 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.

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

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