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Yemeni government forces opened fire with anti-aircraft guns and automatic weapons on tens of thousands of protesters in the capital, Sanaa, pushing for the ouster of longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh, killing at least 12 and wounding dozens.
The attack was the deadliest in months against protesters, who have been massing daily in Sanaa and other cities since February to demand Saleh's removal. The protests have swelled during the past week as the movement tries to re-energize, angered by Saleh's latest decision to deputize his vice president to negotiate a power-transfer deal. Many believe the move is just the latest of many delaying tactics.
Greater numbers of security forces and armed regime supporters have also been turning out in the streets in recent days, increasing the tensions.
More than 100,000 protesters massed Sunday around the state television building and government offices. When the crowd began to march toward the nearby Presidential Palace, security forces opened fire, the witnesses said. Regime snipers fired down at the crowd from nearby rooftops; plainclothes Saleh supporters armed with automatic rifles, swords and batons attacked the protesters.
"This peaceful protest was confronted by heavy weapons and anti-aircraft guns," said Mohammed al-Sabri, an opposition spokesman. He vowed that the escalating protests "will not stop and will not retreat."
Mohammed al-Abahi, a doctor at Sanaa field hospital, said that 12 protesters were shot dead and more than 200 were injured. "Most of the injuries are at the chest, shoulder, head and face." Twenty-five injured protesters are in critical condition, he said.
He also accused security forces of preventing ambulances from rescuing the injured and collecting the bodies of those slain.
Protesters throwing stones managed to break through government lines and advance to near the palace at the heart of Sanaa, turning the clashes with the security forces into street battles.
Saleh has been in Saudi Arabia since the summer, recovering from burns and other wounds from an explosion at his palace. Still, he has resisted calls for him to resign. He deputized his vice president to discuss a Gulf-mediated, U.S.-backed deal under which he would step down in return for immunity for prosecution. But Saleh has already balked three times at signing such a deal.
Demonstrations also took place Sunday in many Yemeni cities including Taiz, Saada, Ibb and Damar.
This program aired on September 18, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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