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Six protesters killed in Yemen

Yemeni security forces have killed six people and wounded hundreds in the second day of a harsh crackdown on anti-government protests, witnesses said. One of the dead was a 15-year-old student.

The assault with gunfire and tear gas was the toughest yet by the Yemeni government in a month of protests aimed at unseating President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years.

The violence began with a pre-dawn raid on a central square in the capital, Sanaa, where thousands of pro-democracy protesters have been camped out.

Doctors and eyewitnesses said security troops surrounded the square with police cars and armoured personnel carriers shortly after midnight and began calling on protesters through loudspeakers to go home. At 5am, security forces stormed in, firing live and ammunition tear gas.

One protester died from a bullet to the head, which may have come from a sniper on the rooftop of a nearby building, witnesses said. Abdelwahed al-Juneid, a volunteer doctor working with the protesters, said around 250 people were wounded.

A few hours later, another protester was shot dead in a nearby street. Eyewitnesses said he was also killed by a sniper, but that could not be independently confirmed. Security officials did not have any immediate comment.

In the city of Dar Saad in the southern province of Aden, police used live fire and tear gas to disperse a crowd of several thousand, killing three demonstrators, a local activist and a hospital official said. He said the dead were all shot in the head and 11 other protesters were wounded.

In the port city of Mukalla in the southeastern province of Hadramout, a 15-year-old student was shot dead when security troops opened fire on protesters. Twelve people were wounded in similar violence in Yemen's southern province of Taiz.

Saleh appeared to be one of the Arab leaders most threatened by the regional unrest inspired by pro-democracy revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. Demonstrators are demanding jobs and greater political freedoms. He has tried to calm protesters by proposing that the government create a new constitution guaranteeing the independence of parliament and the judiciary but protesters have rejected the moves.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in Yemen's four largest provinces, ripping down and burning Saleh's portraits in Sheikh Othman, the most populated district in the southern port city of Aden, witnesses said. In the capital, thousands of women participated in demonstrations - a startling move in a deeply tribal society where women are expected to stay out of sight.

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