Witnesses: 2 killed, dozens hurt in Yemen protest

By AHMED AL HAJ | May 12, 2011 | 1:15 PM EDT

Anti-government protestors carry a wounded demonstrator to a field hospital during clashes with Yemeni security forces in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Yemeni security forces, including snipers, opened fire on thousands of anti-government protesters marching to the Cabinet building on Wednesday, killing one and injuring at least 40, medical officials and protesters said. (AP Photo / Hani Mohammed)

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni police trying to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters in two cities Thursday killed two and wounded at least 47, some by gunfire, according to witnesses. In one of the cities, protesters overran a government building.

Gunmen fired at protesters in the central city of Bayda from the roof of a building belonging to the ruling party, killing two people and injuring seven, activist Ghazi al-Amiri said. In the southern city of Taiz, police fired live ammunition and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators there, injuring 40 people, said field doctor Sadeq al-Shujah.

Taiz has been a hotbed of anti-government protests. Activist Nouh al-Wafi said crowds seized control of the Oil Ministry building and hung a banner over the entrance on Thursday that said "Closed until further notice by order of the youth revolution."

Bushra al-Maktari, an activist in Taiz, said police fired tear gas at the demonstrators, and the government sent army and security reinforcements to confront thousands camped in the city's central square.

Demonstrations took place in Aden, Hadramawt, Hodeida and other cities.

Protesters have been demanding the resignation of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh in weeks of demonstrations, some involving tens of thousands of people. Saleh has been clinging to power, warning that if he leaves without an orderly succession, the al-Qaida branch in Yemen will take advantage of the resulting chaos.

Saleh torpedoed a mediation effort last month that appeared to be close to resolving the crisis. Yemen's powerful neighbors in the Gulf Cooperation Council put together a package that offered Saleh to name his own successor, avoid prosecution and step down in 30 days. Opposition leaders grudgingly accepted it, but at the last minute, Saleh refused to sign.

On Thursday the GCC tried to resurrect the deal.

"The Gulf initiative is the best solution and an exit out of the country's dramatic situation stop the bloodshed and to spare the country further deterioration of the security and political division," GCC secretary-general Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said in a statement Thursday. Media reports said al-Zayani was expected to visit Yemen on Saturday to press the initiative.

On Thursday the U.S. State Department offered its support for the deal and demanded that in the meantime, Yemen's government stop firing on protesters.

"We call on the Yemeni security forces to exercise maximum restraint, refrain from violence and respect the rights of the Yemeni people to freely and peacefully assemble and express their views," spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

"We call on the parties to sign and implement the terms of the (GCC) agreement now to ensure an orderly, peaceful transition of power," Toner said. "This transition must begin immediately."