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Protesters killed in Yemen in raid attempt on ministerial cabinet

From Hakim Almasmari for CNN
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Yemeni Shiite Houthi anti-government protesters near the government headquarters in Sanaa on September 9, 2014.
Yemeni Shiite Houthi anti-government protesters near the government headquarters in Sanaa on September 9, 2014.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Several Houthis were killed, dozens wounded in violence Tuesday
  • Interior Ministry says shots came from armed protesters in crowd
  • Houthis are protesting oil subsidy reform, current government

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) -- At least seven pro-Houthi protesters were killed and dozens were wounded Tuesday when demonstrators allegedly tried to raid the Ministerial Cabinet building in the capital, a senior Houthi official said.

A government representative gave conflicting figures, saying four pro-Houthi protesters were killed in the attempted raid in Sanaa.

The Houthi official said the more than 45 people who were injured were taken to Al-Moayyad house. Hospital officials told CNN that three of the injured are in critical condition. "The gunshot wounds are mostly to the head, back and chest, resulting in serious injuries," a hospital official told CNN on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

The Interior Ministry said protesters -- including some armed Houthis -- attempted to raid the Ministerial Cabinet and attacked the soldiers guarding the gates.

"Troops did their legal duties of protecting government buildings after being threatened," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the protesters were killed and injured by the armed demonstrators within the crowd, and said several government troops were attacked and injured in the violence. It called on Houthis to seek peaceful solutions for change instead of using force.

Houthis, also known as "Ansarullah," have been rallying for almost a month, demanding that a recently approved oil subsidy reform be revoked and that the government step down. Until then, they say, they will not remove their tents from Sanaa and surrounding areas.

In a televised speech Monday, top Ansarullah leader AbdulMalik al-Houthi called on supporters to continue protesting and launched a new stage of escalation. "It seemed that the government downplayed our threats and killed peaceful protesters," al-Houthi said, referring to the deaths of some demonstrators Sunday. "Their blood will not go in vain."

Houthi spokesman Mohammed AbdulSalam threatened the Yemeni government, saying the group was being forced to consider non-peaceful actions in retaliation for the attacks against protesters. "The government is trying to say that peaceful activities are not accepted. The killing of protesters will not make us take steps backwards, but rather raise our ceiling of demands," he said.

Earlier in the month, Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi dismissed the government and agreed to a 15% cut in fuel prices, in addition to other economic reforms, seeking to end weeks of tense protests led by tens of thousands of Houthi loyalists.

Houthis, who follow the Zaidi sect of Islam, rejected the initiative.

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