12 killed, 50 injured in clashes over oil price hikes

SANAA (AFP) — Twelve people were killed during clashes on Thursday between security forces and armed demonstrators in a second day of deadly protests against a government decision to hike fuel prices, witnesses said.
At least 50 protesters were also wounded in the capital and at least six towns in the south and north, with government forces, backed by army tanks and armoured vehicles, deployed along main roads.

In Sanaa, an intelligence officer and an anti-riot policeman were killed and 10 protesters injured in an exchange of fire during attempts to disperse a demonstration in the Tahez neighbourhood, witnesses said.

Four protesters were killed and 10 others wounded in the town of Al Dali, 250 kilometres south of the capital. One protester was killed in the southern town of Demneh.

Three protesters were killed and seven wounded in riots in the western city of Al Hadida, located on the Red Sea, and 15 more protesters were wounded in the southern town of Ibb.

And two protesters were killed and eight others wounded in the northern city of Saada when angry protesters tried to storm the headquarters of the ruling General Popular Congress Party, the government oil company and a state bank.

A police car was burnt by protesters in the centre of the city.

An exchange of fire also occurred during demonstrations in which protesters damaged vehicles and shops in the town of Loder, in the southern province of Abyan, they said. There were no reports of casualties.

Yemeni army and security forces have been heavily deployed in Sanaa and other major towns in the south where similar clashes broke out on Wednesday during demonstrations that left at least 10 dead and scores wounded.

Tanks and armoured vehicles took up positions on main crossroads in the capital and other towns as patrols roamed main streets, witnesses said.

In Sanaa, loudspeakers mounted on police cars called on residents not to take part in “destructive acts and riots” as “the security and stability of the country is the responsibility of all citizens.”

A number of journalists working for foreign television told AFP the Yemeni information ministry has banned them from airing footage from the violence via satellite transmission.

The violence prompted the US embassy in Sanaa to announce in a warden message on Wednesday that “it has advised embassy personnel to avoid nonessential travel within Yemen over the next week, July 20-July 27.”

“The embassy security office has received reports of isolated incidents of rock throwing and gatherings throughout the country protesting recently announced price increases,” it said.

The Yemeni Cabinet announced late Tuesday that it would put into effect new fuel prices, as it decided to lift its subsidies to fuel products.

Petrol prices in the impoverished republic nearly doubled from 35 riyals (32 cents) per litre to 65 riyals (60 cents). Diesel jumped from 17 riyals (16 cents) to 45 riyals (42 cents).

“The Cabinet has reached a conclusion…To continue subsidising fuel products consumed locally would lead eventually to an increse in budget deficit… and put pressure on exchange rate and prices,” a Cabinet statement said.

Yemen, situated at the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, has a population of 19.7 million, and gross domestic product per capita does not exceed $800.

Clashes often break out in Yemen, a country with a tribal structure where the number of firearms in civilian hands is officially estimated at more than 60 million, or more than three per inhabitant.

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