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Death Toll Rises as Yemen Braces for More Protests

SANAA – Clashes between police and anti-regime demonstrators in Yemen's southern city of Aden killed three, medics said, as more protests were expected in the capital Sanaa after Friday weekly prayers.

Clashes between police and anti-regime demonstrators in Yemen's southern city of Aden killed three, medics said, as more protests were expected in the capital Sanaa after Friday weekly prayers. An official at Jumhuriah hospital in Aden said that three bodies were sent to the morgue, adding that 19 people were wounded, two of whom were in serious condition and undergoing surgery.

Police had opened fire on thousands of demonstrators who marched Thursday in Aden's Al-Mansura neighbourhood demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in office for 32 years.

The demonstrators, chanting, "Ali, out!", damaged shops, set fire to tyres and placed obstacles in the streets to block traffic, an AFP correspondent said.

Police fired tear gas and then live rounds to disperse the protesters, who responded by throwing stones.

Twenty people were wounded and a similar number were arrested in the same neighbourhood on Wednesday when demonstrators stormed the local police station and the central prison, according to a local official.

Hundreds of protesters also broke into shops and three hotels, setting car tyres ablaze and blocking roads.

State news agency Saba reported on Thursday that Saleh had ordered an investigation "to inquire about the unfortunate riots that have occurred in some parts of" Al-Mansura.

The latest deaths bring to five the number of people killed in Aden since Wednesday.

The capital Sanaa, meanwhile, was bracing for more demonstrations against the veteran leader after the weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.

On Thursday clashes erupted in the capital for a fifth straight day when about 2,000 demonstrators were attacked by regime backers as they left Sanaa University's campus.

The protesters, chanting "The people want to overthrow the regime," responded by hurling stones.

Police intervened with warning shots to separate the two sides, but later withdrew, as the protesters came under fire from Saleh supporters, a journalist in Sanaa said.

Fifteen of the injured were protesters and the rest were supporters of the regime, he said.

A stone hit an AFP photographer, injuring his head, while regime loyalists beat up an AFP videographer.

In Sanaa, protests have becoming increasingly violent, despite Saleh -- elected to a seven-year-term in September 2006 -- urging dialogue on forming a government of national unity.

"Yemenis have a legitimate right to freedom of expression and assaults against both them and journalists covering their protests are totally unacceptable," Amnesty International said in a statement from London.

It quoted sources in Yemen as saying that "at least 10 demonstrators in Sanaa were injured," including several in the head, after security forces in plainclothes opened fire with live bullets.

Besides poverty and unemployment, Saleh's government is grappling a secessionist movement in the south, rebellion in the north, and a regrouping of Al-Qaeda on its soil.

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