SANAA: 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 might have been a form of nerve gas, which is forbidden under international law.
The allegations emerged as the country’s President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, pledged to hold a referendum this year on a new constitution which would devolve power to parliament.
Opposition activists rejected the move, saying that the first step must be the resignation of Mr Saleh.
The offer came two days after military personnel opened fire on protesters and used what was originally assumed to be tear-gas to disperse demonstrators who were trying to bring more tents into the protest area outside Sanaa University.
Witnesses said soldiers had fired warning shots into the air before shooting gas – and some live bullets – into the crowd, killing two and injuring at least 50.
Earlier reports indicated that the gas used was tear-gas but doctors who have been treating the wounded rebutted that claim yesterday.
”The material in this gas makes people convulse for hours. It paralyses them. We tried to give them oxygen but it didn’t work,” said Amaar Nujaim, an Islamic Relief doctor.
”We are seeing symptoms in the patient’s nerves, not in their respiratory systems. I’m 90 per cent sure it’s nerve gas and not tear-gas that was used,” said Sami Zaid, a doctor at the Science and Technology Hospital, Sanaa.
”We fear it may be a dangerous gas that is … forbidden,” said Mohammad Al-Sheikh, a pathologist at the hospital.