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Rights group urges Yemen to probe use of 'lethal force' against protesters

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SANAA, Yemen — An international rights group urged Yemeni authorities on Sunday to investigate what it called "unnecessary use of lethal force" against demonstrators led by Shiite rebels in the capital who are demanding the reinstatement of fuel subsidies and the dismissal of the government.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Yemen's President must hold military personnel and police accountable for loss of life when they opened fire on demonstrators near the prime minister's office in Sanaa last week. Nine people were killed and 67 wounded.

Yemeni security authorities said protesters were armed and they fired at the office's security guards. HRW however quotes witnesses as saying the protesters were unarmed.

"Yemeni soldiers firing live ammunition into peaceful crowds is all too reminiscent of the killings of protesters that marked the previous government's attempts to crush the 2011 uprising," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW. He was referring to the security crackdown on demonstrators during 2011's yearlong uprising that led to the ouster of longtime strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The demonstrations have escalated tensions in the capital, raising fears of wider conflict in restive Yemen. The country is one of the Arab world's poorest and it faces multiple challenges, including battling an al-Qaida offshoot and a separatist movement in the south.

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