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Two dead as Yemen police fire on protesters


Anti-government protesters shout slogans after clashes with police in Sanaa March 12, 2011. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
Anti-government protesters shout slogans after clashes with police in Sanaa March 12, 2011. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

By Mohamed Sudam

SANAA (Reuters) - Two people died and scores were hurt on Sunday when Yemeni police fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters in Sanaa and Aden demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule, medical sources said.

Witnesses said most of the injured in the capital were suffering severe effects from tear gas but some were hit by bullets. Two were thought to be in serious condition in the clashes near Sanaa University, site of a weeks-long sit-in.

In the southern port of Aden one person died after being shot as protesters clashed with police, a hospital doctor said.

Al Jazeera television showed medics treating Yemenis, covered in blood and coughing from tear gas exposure in a makeshift hospital where protesters have set up an encampment by the university, the epicenter of protests in the capital.

Several thousand people gathered there early on Sunday, setting up barricades in an effort to separate themselves from riot police who used water cannon.

They carried banners branding Saleh "Chemical Ali" in reference to the police use of an apparent tear gas that doctors have said affects the nervous system. The Interior Ministry has denied the accusation.

Abdul-Malek al-Marwani, a Supreme Court judge, resigned and expressed support for protesters, saying the judiciary had lost its independence and corruption was rampant, news websites said.

WHITE HOUSE CRITICISM

The White House chided U.S. allies Yemen and Bahrain on Sunday for violence used against protesters and urged both to exercise restraint.

The United States sees Saleh as an important ally in its fight against a highly active regional wing of al Qaeda based in impoverished Yemen, but has grown increasingly alarmed by the escalating violence and has called for dialogue.

"We urge the governments of (Yemen and Bahrain) to show restraint, and to respect the universal rights of their people," the White House said in a statement.

The United States has called for a "peaceful transition" of power in Yemen and urged Sanaa to probe the deaths and injuries.

Seven protesters were wounded during protests in al-Maafir in Taiz province and a protester died from shots fired by police during protests in the southern port of Aden on Saturday.

Late on Sunday, Saleh named a new youth minister, and replaced the religious guidance and endowments minister, without giving a reason.

Abdelbari Dugheish, an Aden member of parliament from Saleh's ruling party, said he now supported the opposition. "The security forces are responsible for the loss of lives. They are firing at random and using excessive violence," he said.

Four people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed in protests around Yemen on Saturday, bringing the total number of dead during two months of unrest to more than 30.

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.

The 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.

(For an analysis on Yemen click on)

(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam, and Khaled Abdullah in Sanaa and Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Matthew Jones)

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