Aden (Yemen), Feb 26 (AFP) Police gunfire killed fourpeople as the biggest protests yet swept impoverished Yemen,demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down afterthree decades in power.
At least 19 people have now been killed in almostdaily clashes at anti-regime protests since February 16,according to an AFP tally based on reports by medics andwitnesses as calls gather steam for Saleh quit.
Inspired by similar revolts that toppled thepresidents of Tunisia and Egypt, the latest killings came justone day after Saleh ordered his forces to offer "fullprotection" to protesters and loyalists alike.
He has stubbornly refused to resign, saying he willnot seek re-election when his current term ends in 2013 andpromising political reforms.
Security forces yesterday used live ammunition on ademonstration in the southern city of Aden, which has seen theworst violence, bringing the death toll to four today fromjust one rally with 40 others wounded, medics said.
They identified three of the dead as 17-year-olddemonstrator Mohammed Ahmed Saleh, 21-year-old Hael Walid andSalem Bashaj, an employee at the state electricity company whowas shot outside his home.
A hospital official in Aden confirmed to AFP that afourth protester had died of wounds sustained in the gunfire.
Residents of the Aden district of Maalla, where theraid happened, have begun to fear their city has become thefrontline in a state-sponsored war.
"Our neighbourhood has witnessed real scenes of warwaged by forces of the Republican Guard, who have beentargeting our innocent young who want to protest peacefully,"one resident told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Security forces also arrested many demonstrators,residents told AFP.
Clashes between police and protesters yesterdaycontinued through the night. Witnesses said security forcesopened fire at a sit-in outside a hotel on the main street inMaalla to demand the departure of Saleh.
Yemen''s protesters dubbed yesterday "the beginning ofthe end" for Saleh''s regime, which swept to power in 1978.
In the capital Sanaa, tens of thousands of protesterspoured into a main square near Sanaa University chanting "Out,out!" and "God bears witness to your acts, Abdullah," an AFPcorrespondent reported.
Organisers estimated the numbers at 100,000.
"There is no solution unless the regime steps down,"prayer leader Sheikh Abdullah Satar told the faithful over amegaphone.
Saleh loyalists also demonstrated in the capital''sTahrir square, where they have been since early February.