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Death toll in Yemen mounts as police and protesters clash

A hand-grenade attack killed two anti-regime protesters and left 27 injured in the Yemeni city of Taez on Friday, while deadly clashes broke out in Aden, witnesses said.

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AFP - Anti-regime protesters in the volatile Yemen city of Taez were blasted in a hand grenade attack Friday leaving two dead, while fierce clashes in the southern city of Aden killed four, witnesses said.

Clashes also broke out in the capital Sanaa in which four anti-regime demonstrators were injured, according to witnesses and journalists, who were also beaten.

The grenade attack came as hundreds of protesters took to central Taez after the weekly Muslim prayers to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster, in protests that have been raging in the city for the past week.

A local official told AFP the grenade was lobbed at protesters from a speeding car with government number plates. Two people were in the car "but we will not identify their political affiliation," he said.

Medics in Aden, meanwhile, said four demonstrators were shot dead as police fired on protests in several areas of the southern port city, which has borne the brunt of the violence that has left 10 people dead since Sunday.

At least 27 were wounded in Friday's clashes, a medical official in the southern city told AFP.

A witness said that police opened fire at demonstrators who set tyres on fire in a street in Omar al-Mukhtar, killing one of the protesters, Mohammed Munir Khan.

Earlier, three people were shot dead when police fired on protesters in Al-Saada, Khor Maksar and Sheikh Othman districts, as hundreds of people took to the streets around the city to demand Saleh step down.

A local official told AFP that the mayor of Aden, Adnan al-Jafri, handed in his resignation Friday in "protest at the deteriorating security in the city."

In the capital Sanaa, the scene of a sixth straight day of demonstrations, at least four anti-regime protesters were wounded in an attack by Saleh partisans, witnesses said.

Several journalists were severely beaten by supporters of the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) who attacked the demonstration using batons and axes, an AFP correspondent reported.

Thousands of demonstrators, mostly students, had gathered following the weekly Muslim prayers in a main street of Sanaa. "People want to overthrow the regime," they chanted.

Saleh's supporters numbered in the hundreds, aided by security agents in plainclothes.

Students have tried for the past week to hold a protest march toward the presidential palace but been intercepted each day by stone-throwing regime supporters armed with batons.

The US embassy in Sanaa on Friday condemned "a disturbing rise in the number and violence of attacks against Yemeni citizens gathering peacefully to express their views on the current political situation.

"We have also seen reports that government of Yemen officials were present during these attacks," it said on the embassy website, urging authorities "to prevent any further attacks on peaceful demonstrations."

In Sanaa, protests have becoming increasingly violent, despite Saleh -- elected to a seven-year-term in September 2006 -- urging dialogue on forming a government of national unity.

Amnesty International on Friday issued a fresh condemnation of the violence.

"Yemeni authorities seem to be stepping up their crackdown on protesters and we are gravely concerned that if that continues, the death toll will inevitably rise," it said in a statement.
 

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