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Yemen imposes state of emergency after 42 killed

Just after Friday prayers, men armed with semiautomatic weapons began firing on protesters in Yemen's capital, more than doubling the death toll of the weeks-long protest movement in one day.

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Anti-government protesters react as they gather at a field hospital to check on friends and relatives during clashes with security forces in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, March 18. Yemeni security forces fired from rooftops at protesters as some tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators gathered in central Sanaa, killing at least 31 protesters.

Muhammed Muheisen/AP

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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh imposed a 30-day state of emergency on Friday after protest violence killed at least 42 and injured more than 300.

Mr. Saleh expressed "sorrow for what happened today" after government loyalists opened fire on opposition demonstrators in the capital, but insisted that security forces were not behind the killings.

"The national security council announces a state of emergency across Yemen, and a curfew is set upon armed people in all Yemeni provinces," said Saleh, who said armed protesters had been behind the gunfire. "And the security forces with the Army will take responsibility for stability."

The intensification of force used against demonstrators has some concerned that protesters will retaliate, threatening the possibility of a broad war that could engulf the country. Yemen is the second most heavily armed country in the world, behind the US.

Friday’s events mark the largest escalation of violence since Yemen’s protest movement began in earnest in mid-February, more than doubling the number of deaths throughout the country in a single day. Prior to the shooting, approximately 40 had been killed, according to Amnesty International. Witnesses said that children were among the hundreds wounded by gunfire.

Just after Friday prayers, men armed with semiautomatic weapons began firing on protesters from rooftops of buildings overlooking the area. Massive clouds of black smoke could be seen billowing from the edge of the demonstration area.

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