SANAA // Snipers picked off their victims from rooftops yesterday as pro-regime forces killed at least 30 protesters in a second day of violence in Yemen's capital.
More than 50 people have died and hundreds have been injured in the bloodiest assault in months on demonstrators calling for the removal of the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Mr Saleh is in Saudi Arabia recovering after treatment for injuries sustained in an attack on his compound in Sanaa in June. King Abdullah met him in Riyadh yesterday to discuss the latest outbreak of violence.
Tarik Al Duais, a doctor at a Sanaa field clinic, said dozens of people were in critical condition. "Most of the injuries are at the chest, shoulder, head and face," he said. He accused security forces of preventing ambulances from removing the wounded and collecting the bodies of the dead protesters.
A local television station showed video footage of bodies with gruesome injuries.
Thousands of protesters armed with sticks overran a camp belonging to the Presidential Guards in Sanaa, and security officials said others were headed for the headquarters of the force led by Mr Saleh's son Ahmed in the south of the city.
The protesters, joined by soldiers from the rebel 1st Armoured Division, stormed the Guards' camp without firing a shot and seized a large number of firearms, according to witnesses. Presidential Guard troops did not fire at the protesters and eventually fled, leaving their weapons behind.
According to human-rights groups, five children were killed in yesterday's violence, including a 10-month-old baby. Also dead were a cameraman with a Saudi television station and at least three soldiers with the 1st Armoured Division that defected in March to support the youth-led revolution.
Colonel Khalid Abdulwali, a senior officer from the division, is believed to have been shot dead by snipers while defending an entrance to the demonstrators' protest camp, known as Change Square.
Shells also hit Sanaa's university campus and the field clinic outside.
Tarik Noman, another doctor at the clinic, said it was unable to cope with the increasing number of injured.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in Sanaa to press demands for Mr Saleh to step down. Pro-regime snipers killed at least 27 and injured 342.
Presidential Guards and security forces led by Ahmed Saleh, as well as gunmen in plain clothes, launched attacks with light and medium weapons on the protest camp outside the university campus, said witnesses. Snipers were seen on the rooftops of nearby buildings.
Locations of the rebel division were shelled by the Presidential Guards, said a senior official for Major General Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, commander of the division that defected along with his 50,000 troops.
The defence ministry denied the reports.
In the city of Taiz, three protesters were killed and at least 10 others wounded by live rounds fired by security forces and armed government supporters, said medics and activists. They said tens of thousands took to the streets. More than 100,000 protesters massed on Sunday around the state radio building and government offices.
When the crowd began to march toward the nearby Republican Palace, security forces opened fire and shot tear gas canisters, activists said.
Snipers fired down at the crowd from nearby rooftops, while plain clothes government supporters armed with automatic rifles, swords and batons attacked the protesters.
Saba, the Yemeni state news agency, quoted a security official as saying that the Muslim Brotherhood rallied "unlicensed protests" near the University of Sanaa, and accusing the militia of throwing firebombs at a power station.
After Sunday's violence, protesters in Sanna took control of a bridge at Zubairi Street, halting traffic and setting up tents.
Thousands of others attacked government buildings and set fires to buildings they said were used by snipers and pro-government thugs.
The National Council for the Forces of Peaceful Revolution and representatives of the rebel military divisions on Sunday separately condemned the "monstrous crimes".
They urged the international community to take action to stop the killing of peaceful protesters.
Yemen's protest movement has stepped up demonstrations in the past week, angered after Mr Saleh deputised his vice president, Abdurabu Mansur Hadi, last week to negotiate further on a Gulf-mediated, US-backed deal under which he would step down in return for immunity from prosecution.
Mr Saleh has already backed away three times from signing the deal and opposition officials said the latest move was just another delaying tactic. Mr Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia after being wounded in a June 3 attack on his palace, raising hopes for his swift removal - but he has dug in, refusing to step down.
To contain the escalating situation, Jamal Benomar, a UN envoy to Yemen and Abdulatif Al Zayani, the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary general, arrived in Sanaa yesterday, state media reported.
Officials from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in an on-the-ground assessment released last week that many Yemenis have peacefully demonstrated for greater freedom in the past six months but have "met with excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by the state".
* With additional reporting by the Associated Press