SANAA, Yemen - Yemeni police opened fire on protesters in Sanaa and Taiz on Tuesday, killing at least three people, as protesters tried to escalate their campaign to end President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule.
The clashes came as Gulf mediators tried to bring government and opposition leaders together for talks on a presidential transfer of power in the poor, strategically located Arab state, a key battleground in the US-led fight against al Qaeda.
Two people died and nearly 100 were hit by bullets when riot police stopped protesters marching towards Sanaa's main Zubeiri street, near the home of vice president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, medic Mohammed Qobati said. Protesters stoned the riot police and set fire to a security vehicle, witnesses said. Al Jazeera television showed medics tending to dozens of wounded covered in blood.
The demonstrators have so far mainly been confined to an area around Sanaa University, where they have been camped out since February to press for political reform, while Saleh supporters have often gathered in other parts of the city. At least one person was shot dead and another wounded in Taiz, south of Sanaa, as protesters across the country tested security forces' limits after three months of demonstrations demanding Saleh's ouster.