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Reports: Security Forces And Snipers Kill At Dozens In Yemen

Yemeni anti-government protesters carried away a wounded demonstrator in Sanaa earlier today (March 18, 2011).
Ahmad Gharabli
AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni anti-government protesters carried away a wounded demonstrator in Sanaa earlier today (March 18, 2011).

"Yemeni security forces and unidentified snipers opened fire at a protest in Sanaa after Muslim prayers Friday, killing at least 30 people and wounding 200 others, medical sources and witnesses told Reuters." ( Update: Yemen's interior minister tells Reuters 25 people are died. The Guardianreports that at least 45 people are dead.)

The BBC writes that:

"[Doctors] said dozens were wounded when government forces opened fire on a group of protesters gathered near the university, following Friday prayers. Armed men took aim from positions on top of nearby buildings in Taghyeer Square, medics told the BBC.

"A month of violence has shaken Yemen, with protesters demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down."

According to Al-Jazeera:

"Friday's attack came as tens of thousands gathered across the country, continuing to demand that president Ali Abdullah Saleh — the country's ruler of 32 years — step down. Al Jazeera correspondents in Sanaa reported that many protesters were shot in the head and neck; most of the injured were shot with live ammunition."

Update at 6:18 p.m. ET: The Guardian's correspondent in Yemen reports that at least 45 are dead. Tom Finn looked on as one corpse turned into a row of them. Here's a bit of his chilling narrative:

Yasir Saeed was the first casualty dragged into the mosque. Blood was still trickling from the gaping bullet wound in the back of the 32-year-old English teacher's head as doctors lowered his mangled body on to a blanket, muttering a short prayer before closing the lids of his eyes.

Gradually, his corpse was joined by others lined up in a row alongside him. One by one, miniature Qur'ans were placed on their chests as their blood soaked through the carpet beneath them.

Update at 6:18 p.m. ET: From the BBC:

-- Doctors at a field hospital in Sana'a say 617 were injured Friday. 270 with gunshot wounds.

-- "The country's Tourism Minister, Nabil al-Faqih, resigned in protest."

Update at 6:09 p.m. ET: President Barack Obama issued a statement condemning today's attacks against protesters in Yemen:

I strongly condemn the violence that has taken place in Yemen today and call on President Saleh to adhere to his public pledge to allow demonstrations to take place peacefully. Those responsible for today's violence must be held accountable. The United States stands for a set of universal rights, including the freedom of expression and assembly, as well as political change that meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people. It is more important than ever for all sides to participate in an open and transparent process that addresses the legitimate concerns of the Yemeni people, and provides a peaceful, orderly and democratic path to a stronger and more prosperous nation.

Update at 1:43 p.m. ET: Yemen's president has declared a state of emergency, reports Reuters:

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, struggling to maintain his 32-year grip on power in the impoverished nation, denied that his police were to blame and said the deaths happened during clashes between various protesters.

He declared a state of emergency, saying this meant that ordinary citizens would not be able to carry weapons.

Update at 10:40 a.m. ET. We're adding a short video that the Associated Press has made available. It's of the scene at a hospital in Yemen where the injured were brought for treatment. WARNING: It is somewhat graphic.

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.