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Government crackdown kills 30 in Yemen

Government forces kill 30 and wound dozens after launching attack on anti-government protesters.

A government crackdown on anti-government protesters in Yemen has killed 30 people and left many wounded in the country's capital Sanaa, according to reports.

The Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh declared a state of emergency, blaming "armed elements" within the anti-government protests for his decision.

While the world's press has focused on Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, protests in Yemen have received comparatively little attention. In this week's New Statesman, however, we published a piece by Nir Rosen on the government's embryonic attempts to repress protestors - attempts that evolved from intimidation into murder today.

Rosen describes how government forces attempted to stop the protests in February.

One Friday in February, after the noon prayers, a straggle of Yemeni students and activists met in front of a small roundabout by Sana'a University and marched in solidarity with Egyptians who were frustrated with Hosni Mubarak's refusal to resign. Fewer than 20 people took part in this protest in Yemen's capital city; only two were women. Many carried pictures of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the late Egyptian leader and symbol of Arab nationalism. They called on the youth to awaken, and for the fall of Mubarak.

They passed throngs of people who ignored them or looked on bemused, carrying on life as usual and buying khat, the mild, stimulating narcotic that nearly all Yemenis chew. One onlooker asked another who the man in the picture was; a traffic policeman spat out that the demonstrators were sons of whores and nobodies. A Yemeni Red Crescent car followed them. I asked one of the first-aiders why they were there. "For them," he told me, gesturing at the protesters. A lone policeman on a motorcycle and two sanitation trucks full of young men with sticks and rocks also followed.

Abruptly, more security forces arrived. Some had clubs. The trucks, each holding at least 20 men, pulled up, ready to attack the demonstrators, who scattered.

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