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Yemen protester: 'They shot at us directly;' at least 3 dead

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Massive demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh are reported
  • Witnesses say at least two protesters were shot dead in Sanaa, one in Taiz
  • Dozens have been wounded by gunfire, and hundreds suffered tear gas inhalation
  • Some 3,000 protest on the island of Socotra, off Yemen's coast, against Saleh's regime

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Government forces in Taiz and Sanaa fired on crowds of people protesting the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, leaving dozens wounded and at least three dead, eyewitnesses and medical sources said Tuesday.

Eyewitnesses described enormous demonstrations, numbering hundreds of thousands, in the two cities as the ongoing protests against Saleh's longtime rule of the country appeared to gain strength.

On the small island of Socotra at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, more than 3,000 people marched against the regime and denounced the Gulf Cooperation Council's proposal last week, in which a coalition of Persian Gulf nations urged Saleh to transfer power to his vice president.

"No way, no way, will we agree!" the protesters chanted, according to witnesses.

Field medical sources and a member of the protest organizing committee in Taiz said one protester was killed and seven injured from gunshot wounds during an enormous demonstration in Change Square.

In Sanaa, the capital, two people were killed and 37 were suffering from gunshot wounds, witnesses said.

Riadh Saleh, an anti-government protester in Sanaa, described a scene of chaos after he said the police turned their weapons on the crowd.

"Ambulances are everywhere and the injured are laid on the ground," he said. "They shot at us directly and the injured are hundreds."

Medical personnel at Sanaa's Change Square said the hurt, including those suffering from tear gas inhalation, numbered "in the hundreds and are still coming in." They issued a plea for "nearby hospitals to volunteer and help us give treatment to the injured revolutionists."

Earlier, a huge crowd of protesters marching on Zubairy Street in Sanaa included tens of thousands of women.

One female activist, Laila Abdul Kareem, declared: "We want to tell the Gulf states that their only option is to force Saleh to step down. He is one person while we are millions."

CNN was not able to independently verify the witness accounts.

The state run Saba News Agency did not mention the anti-government protests but said pro-government demonstrators had taken to the streets in four provinces to support Saleh and the Yemen government.

Journalist Hakim Almasmari in Sanaa contributed to this report.