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Yemeni forces kill at least 16 protesters

Yemeni anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital Sanaa, Yemen, on April 3,2011. UPI/Mohammed Abdallah
1 of 10 | Yemeni anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital Sanaa, Yemen, on April 3,2011. UPI/Mohammed Abdallah | License Photo

SANAA, Yemen, April 4 (UPI) -- Clashes between protesters and security forces in Taez, Yemen, Monday left at least 16 people dead and hundreds injured, medical officials said.

Soldiers opened fire on thousands of marching demonstrators, witnesses told al-Arabiya. Taez is about 125 miles from Sanaa, where protests also were reported.

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The deadly violence followed weeks of anti-government demonstrations, with protesters calling to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has held power for three decades, and for political reforms.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday the United States wants to see "all sides refrain from violence" and the Obama administration still supports negotiations for "a peaceful transition of power."

Asked by a reporter how concerned the administration is that whatever government supplants Saleh won't be as helpful in fighting terrorism, Carney said "we are obviously concerned that in this period of political unrest that al-Qaida and other groups will attempt to take advantage of that power vacuum, and that's one of the reasons why we urge political dialogue to take place and a timetable for this transition that President Saleh has talked about to be begun."

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Al-Jazeera reported that in addition to the 16 dead and 30 wounded in Taez Monday, about 1,600 people had been injured in the country since Sunday as police use live rounds and tear gas to disperse the protesters in Taez.

Gov. Hamoud al-Soufi told al-Jazeera eight soldiers had been killed in the clashes. Medical teams told CNN at least two of the dead were shot in the chest and said the Republican Guard and other security forces were responsible for the gunfire.

Earlier, in the city of Hudaida, police used gunfire and tear gas to prevent 400 protesters from marching to the city's presidential palace, one of many owned by Saleh, al-Arabiya said.

There were reports that gunmen in civilian clothing shot protesters, the Arabic network said.

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