Gunmen on rooftops shot dead up to 42 protesters at an anti-government rally in Sanaa after Muslim prayers on Friday, enraging the opposition and prompting President Ali Abdullah Saleh to declare a state of emergency.
Medical sources and witnesses told Reuters that Yemeni security forces and plainclothes snipers, who protesters said were government security men, had opened fire on the crowds. The Interior Ministry put the death toll at 25, but doctors said 42 people had died and at least 300 were injured.
Saleh, struggling to maintain his 32-year grip on power in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, said the deaths had occurred in clashes between demonstrators and other citizens at a protest encampment at Sanaa University.
"I express my extreme sorrow for what happened today after Friday prayers in the university district," Saleh told a news conference in Sanaa, blaming gunmen among the protesters for the violence.
"The police were not present and did not open fire," he said. "It is clear there are armed elements inside these tents and they are the ones who opened fire."
He declared a 30-day state of emergency that gives wider powers to security forces and bars citizens from bearing arms in public. A curfew was being discussed.
Bahrain, now Yemen. Saudi Arabia is probably pretty damn nervous about right now, as is, oh, pretty much everyone else on the planet. Something's got to give soon on the Arabian Peninsula, however. When it does, it's not going to be pleasant.