Yemeni security forces fired live bullets and tear gas on two pro-democracy demonstrations on Saturday, killing three people, including a 15-year-old student, as the government clamps down on a growing protest movement, witnesses said.
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 for the past month to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
An ally in the Obama's administration's fight against al Qaeda, Saleh has been in power for 32 years.
Doctors and witnesses said security troops surrounded the square with police cars and armored personnel carriers shortly after midnight and began calling on protesters through loudspeakers to go home.
At 5am, security forces stormed in, firing tear gas and live ammunition.
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.
"We were performing dawn prayers when we were surprised by a sudden hail of bullets and tear gas," said Walid Hassan, a 25-year-old activist. "The protesters began throwing rocks at security ... it was total mayhem, a real battlefield."
A few hours later, another protester was shot dead in a nearby street.
A witness said he was also shot by a sniper, but that could not be independently confirmed. Security officials did not have any immediate comment.
In the port city of Mukalla in the southeastern province of Hadramout, a 15-year-old was shot dead when security troops opened fire on protesters. Twelve people were wounded in similar violence in Yemen's southern province of Taiz.