Yemen protest turns violent

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Mullins: Turning to the Middle East now, the eyes of the international community are on the conflict in Libya. But anti-government protests continue elsewhere in the region. In Yemen today, a huge demonstration turned deadly. Protesters clashed with police after unidentified snipers opened fire on the crowd. More than 40 people were killed, many more were injured. After the shootings, President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared a state of emergency. Laura Kasinof reports for the New York Times from Yemen. She says the protest today in Sana was the largest yet.

Laura Kasinof: There were over 100,000 people at the protest and people came to participate in this noonday Friday prayer outside in the demonstration area which stretched on for over a mile in front of Sana University where there had been a continuous sit-in. Shortly after prayer on the south end of the protest was attacked. Civilian clothed men set fire to some of the tents. These were new tents that were just erected this afternoon. The demonstrators were trying to take over more ground in the city and then men in civilian clothes were acting as snipers and shooting from nearby buildings down into the protesters. Then the soldiers came in and they also opened fire which is by far the worst violence we have seen in the capital of Sana since the unrest started over a month ago.

Mullins: Laura, could you explain why it is that people came out in the tens of thousands to protest?

Kasinof: Well the demonstrators are saying that they wand President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. The President tried giving several political concessions since the unrest started but they said no, that we won't accept that, we don't want to enter into political dialog with the President, we only want him to leave. The protesters spoke to me about the corruption, the inherent corruption in Yemeni society.They think this prevents them from getting jobs and also they say that the governments abuses their natural resources. However, I will say today I was hearing more look at our government that killed Yemeni civilians.

Mullins: Well those who were the victims of force today were brought to a makeshift hospital which was in a mosque. You spent a little bit of time in there. Can you tell us about the conditions in which the doctors were trying to treat the injured?

Kasinof: Yes. They have IV's, they have stretchers, and this sort of thing but you know, when injured people are brought in, they lay them on blankets on the ground as the volunteer doctors run around frantically trying to attend them. Today at the height of the violence there was blood everywhere. There were over 100 people shot today. I kept hearing the word massacre, massacre used over and over again and the doctors would each, everyone couldn't get their head around it but was trying to treat the people as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

Mullins: All right. Speaking to us from Sana Yemen, the capital, Laura Kasinof, who reports for the New York Times. Thanks very much, Laura.

Kasinof: Thanks for having me.