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Nine killed in clashes outside Yemen ministry in Sanaa

By Hakim Almasmari, for CNN
updated 8:31 PM EDT, Tue July 31, 2012
Yemeni president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi removed many officials from the country's security sector.
Yemeni president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi removed many officials from the country's security sector.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • About 30 people were injured in the fighting, the officials said
  • Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from his presidency this year
  • Yemen has been besieged with political unrest, tribal uprisings and militant activity

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- Nine people were killed in fierce clashes between gunmen and security forces outside the Interior Ministry in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Tuesday, Interior Ministry officials told CNN.

The officials said that gunmen who have been surrounding the Interior Ministry since Monday attempted to storm it early Tuesday. They demanded they be enrolled in Yemen's police force. Most of the gunmen were dressed in security uniforms.

The Interior Ministry says the gunmen worked unofficially with the Yemeni government during the recent political stalemate that led to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh leaving power.

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"These gunmen are not on our records of official government employees. They want to forcibly be enrolled or else threatened chaos," a senior Interior Ministry official told CNN on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media.

The officials said that 30 others were injured in the continuing clashes and that the fighting is inching closer toward the center of the capital.

Medical officials expect death tolls to increase. "We cannot reach most of the injured from the clashes. Roads are blocked, and clashes are tense," a medical official within the Interior Ministry told CNN.

The Interior Ministry blocked all roads leading to the northern areas of Sanaa.

Residents in the Hasaba neighborhood, where clashes are fiercest, begun evacuating their homes, fearing more violence.

"Similar clashes took place last year, and we lost everything. A bullet went through my home window, so we are leaving. We thought that unrest was part of the past," said Saleh al-Habbari, who lives in Hasaba.

As part of Yemen's security reform strategy, President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi removed many officials from the country's security sector. Among those removed was Mohammed Abdullah al-Qawsi, who was atop of Yemen's police force. Al-Qawsi permitted hundreds to serve unofficially in the police forces.

Yemen's government has been battling tribal uprisings and Islamic militants for some time. There was widespread discontent with Saleh's government.

Saleh was forced from office in February after widespread protests against his 32-year rule. A massive suicide bombing blamed on the Yemen-based affiliate of al Qaeda killed more than 100 government troops in May.

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