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Yemen army shooting protesters

04 march 2011, 19:41
Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi©
Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi©
Yemeni troops killed four demonstrators and wounded seven others on Friday when they fired on an anti-regime rally in the north, officials and Shiite rebels are quoted by AFP as saying, as protests raged across the country.

The shooting, which came a day after the opposition and clerics offered embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh a smooth exit from power, took place in the village of Semla, 170 kilometers from the capital Sanaa.

"Two protesters were killed and nine others were wounded when soldiers opened fire from a military position on the demonstration calling for Saleh's departure," a leader of the Zaidi rebels said on condition of anonymity.

The death toll later rose to four when two protesters died of their wounds, according to a government official in the northern province of Amran, who declined to be named.

The Zaidi rebels, also known as Huthis, on February 22 joined anti-Saleh protests which erupted across the poverty striken country in January and gained momentum last month.

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

In the capital Sanaa, massive crowds gathered for weekly Muslim prayers in a square where anti-Saleh protesters have been camped since February 20.

"We will not leave this place until the fall of the corrupt and tyrants," said Yahya al-Dulaimi, the cleric who led the prayers.

Organisers said more than 100,000 people were demonstrating in Sanaa on Friday.

Anti-regime protest organiser Hashem al-Ibara told AFP on Thursday the demonstrators would intensify their rallies from Saturday and would start marching towards the presidential palace.

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

Rights group Amnesty International has put the toll at 27.

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.

By Hammoud Mounassar

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