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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Doctors say Yemen protesters 'may have been hit with nerve gas'

Anti-government protesters may have been hit with nerve gas, doctors say

DOCTORS from the scene of violent anti-government protests in Yemen's capital said that what was thought to be tear gas fired by government forces on demonstrators may have been nerve gas, which is forbidden under international law.

Military personnel opened fire on Tuesday night and used what was originally assumed to be tear gas to disperse a group of demonstrators who were trying to bring additional tents into the protest area outside Sanaa University.

At least two people were killed in a fresh round of clashes across the country, where anti-regime protests have been raging since late January, medical and security officials said.

One protester died of gunshot wounds early Wednesday when police opened fire on student demonstrators near the university in the capital Sanaa overnight, a medical official said.

According to witnesses, the soldiers fired warning shots into the air before shooting gas - and in some cases live bullets - into the crowd, killing one and injuring at least 50.

Earlier reports indicated that the gas used was tear gas, but doctors who have been treating the wounded refuted that claim today.

"The material in this gas makes people convulse for hours. It paralyses them. They couldn't move at all. We tried to give them oxygen but it didn't work," said Amaar Nujaim, a field doctor who works for Islamic Relief.

"We are seeing symptoms in the patient's nerves, not in their respiratory systems. I'm 90 per cent sure its nerve gas and not tear gas that was used," said Sami Zaid, a doctor at the Science and Technology Hospital in Sanaa.

Mohammad Al-Sheikh, a pathologist at the same hospital, said that some of the victims had lost their muscular control and were forced to wear diapers.

"We have never seen tear gas cause these symptoms. We fear it may be a dangerous gas that is internationally forbidden," Al-Sheikh said.

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