Yemen security officers stormed a square Saturday morning with thousands of anti-government protesters, firing live ammunition, water cannons and tear gas, AP reports. The crackdown left one dead and injured hundreds.
The protesters have been camped out in the square in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, for the past month as they have demanded the ousting of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled for more than 30 years.
Troops first surrounded the central square and called on the protesters to disperse. Then, at about 5 a.m., the troops stormed the square.
Doctors in the area said police blocked medical teams from entering the square to help people, BBC reports.
"It felt like a massacre, there were police teams in official uniforms and plain clothes police and they were attacking the protesters," a witness told Reuters. "They used tear gas and gunfire and chased some people out into the streets."
Yemen security forces also opened fire at protesters in the city of Taiz, injuring at least three students who had gathered to demand Saleh be put on trial, Al Jazeera reports.
The attack on protesters in Sanaa came hours after the largest demonstrations in a month hit the country. Tens of thousands demonstrated across the country. In a surprise move thousands of women joined the protests in Sanaa, a rare site in such a conservative country.
But police responded to Friday's protests with force, unleashing gunfire that injured at least six.
Weeks of protests in Yemen have left about 30 dead, BBC reports.
Doctors in Yemen said earlier in the week that what was originally thought to be tear gas fired on demonstrators by government forces might instead have been a form of nerve gas, which is forbidden under international law, GlobalPost correspondents Tom Finn and Shatha Al-Harazi reported.
“We are seeing symptoms in the patient’s nerves, not in their respiratory systems. I’m 90 percent sure its nerve gas and not tear gas that was used,” said Sami Zaid, a doctor at the Science and Technology Hospital in Sanaa.
Mohammad Al-Sheikh, a pathologist at the same hospital, told GlobalPost that some of the victims had lost their muscular control and were forced to wear diapers.
“We have never seen tear gas cause these symptoms. We fear it may be a dangerous gas that is internationally forbidden,” Al-Sheikh said.
Saleh tried to appease protesters Thursday by announcing plans to change the constitution and move to a parliamentary system, but protesters have rejected his plans. Opposition groups also dismissed Saleh's earlier offer to not seek re-election in 2013.
The protests in Yemen are part of a wave of uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa after revolutions proved successful in Tunisia and Egypt.
-- Hanna Ingber Win