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Middle east

Protesters remain defiant on second day of deadly clashes with troops

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-10-16

Security forces fired on protesters in Sanaa on Sunday, killing at least six people, hospital officials said. Elsewhere, one female protester was killed by police in the flashpoint city of Taez, south of the capital.

AFP - Yemeni troops shot dead six people in the capital Sunday as they attempted to block a new bid by activists to bring 10 months of protests against veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh to a head.

Medical officials stationed at a makeshift field hospital near Change Square said four protesters and two dissident soldiers were killed, and at least 59 others wounded.

The defiant march by tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in Sanaa came despite the deaths of at least 12 people in a similar protest in the capital on Saturday.

The fresh violence erupted when protesters neared Al-Zubeiri Street, which marks the dividing line between parts of the capital held by troops loyal to Saleh and those held by dissident units led by General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, who rallied to the opposition in March.

An AFP correspondent on the scene said snipers positioned on rooftops overlooking the street opened fire on the protesters, who were being led by dissident troops from Ahmar's First Armoured Division.

Ahmar's troops returned fire and fierce clashes ensued as unarmed protesters frantically dispersed.

The latest violence followed a similarly bloody day on Saturday when troops loyal to Saleh shot dead 12 protesters from a crowd of hundreds of thousands who marched on Al-Zubeiri Street.

Seventeen other people, at least five of them civilians, were killed in clashes which erupted between Saleh loyalists on one side and pro-opposition tribesmen and army units on the other.

The pro-democracy activists, who have been demonstrating since January to bring an end to Saleh's 33-year rule, voiced defiance ahead of Sunday's march.

"We will continue with our protests... even if thousands of our youth are killed," said Walid al-Ammari, a spokesman for the protesters. "This is the only way to ensure the fall of the regime," he told AFP.

In a separate protest in the flashpoint city of Taez, south of the capital, one woman was killed when government troops opened fire on demonstrators also calling for Saleh's resignation, according to medical officials.

Aziza Uthman Ghaleb, 21, was killed by sniper fire, making her the first female to die while marching in an anti-government protest since January.

Although there have been female casualties throughout the 10 months of violence which has gripped Yemen, Ghaleb was the first woman to be targeted while actively participating in an anti-government action.

Earlier Sunday, General Ahmar released a statement calling on the international community to take immediate action to stop the bloodshed and force Saleh to step down.

"We are calling for an urgent intervention by the international community to bring an immediate stop to the massacres by this ignorant murderer," the dissident commander said.

He said it was time for the international community to "force" Saleh to sign a deal brokered by impoverished Yemen's wealthy Gulf neighbours under which the president would transfer power to his deputy in return for a promise of immunity from prosecution.

Despite mounting pressure from Western governments as well as the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Saleh has for months refused to sign the deal, even though he has repeatedly promised that he would.

Ahmar also called on all armed groups in the capital, including loyalist troops, armed tribesmen and his own dissident units, to withdraw to at least 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Sanaa.

But rival militiamen remained heavily deployed on the streets of the capital.

After prolonged medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for blast wounds he sustained in a June bomb attack on his compound, Saleh has overseen an intensified crackdown since his surprise return in September.

The UN Security Council is currently drafting a resolution that will call on all sides to stop the violence, and for Saleh to sign the GCC agreement and step down.

But council members say it will not threaten sanctions.

Date created : 2011-10-16

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