Yemeni troops open fire at protest march, kill 3

A Yemeni doctor says security troops opened fire at a protest march in a southern town, killing three people and wounding scores.

Friday's shooting took place in Ibb, an agricultural town south of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as thousands marched in a funeral procession for a man who died there the previous day when troops cracked down on an anti-government rally. Earlier on Friday, protesters in Ibb had set two military vehicles on fire.

Field doctor Mortada Seif says three protesters died. He says 10 of the wounded in the shooting were in critical condition.

There were also anti-government demonstrators in several other cities and towns across Yemen on Friday, leading to dozens of injuries.

Also Friday, seven Yemeni soldiers were reported killed in two ambushes.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Qatar has pulled out of an effort to mediate an end to Yemen's political crisis, blaming the country's embattled president Friday for the impasse and potentially leaving his regime even more isolated among his neighbors.

The development came as anti-government demonstrators rallied in several cities, leading to dozens of injuries, and as seven Yemeni soldiers were reported killed in two ambushes.

Qatar was among six Gulf nations pushing a deal for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 32 years in power in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Three months of massive street protests have demanded the autocratic ruler's immediate departure, and a government crackdown has killed about 150 people.

The six nations of the regional alliance known as the Gulf Cooperation Council are worried that Yemen's growing instability could destabilize other parts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Qatar's official news agency said that the GCC secretary-general, Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, was informed of the withdrawal decision on Thursday.

"The government was obliged to take the decision because of the stalling and delays in the signing of the agreement, the escalation of the events, the severe confrontations and the lack of wisdom which contradict the spirit of the initiative," QNA said.

Yemen's official news agency SABA said Friday that Saleh's party accused Qatar of siding with the protesters and welcomed its withdrawal from the talks.

"Yemen is ready to deal with the Gulf initiative without the participation of the (Great) state of Qatar, which is involved in the conspiracy and events taking place not only in Yemen, but in the Arab region in general," said a statement from the ruling National Congress Party. Without elaborating, the statement said, "the state of Qatar has its own agenda and the party which stands behind it is known."

Saleh himself, addressing supporters, called opposition parties "outlaws and killers," telling them: "Stop playing with fire, otherwise, our people in all villages and neighborhoods, supported by the military institution, will not stand idle but will retaliate decisively."

Yemen's National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms responded that the speech "amounts to a call for a civil war in the country."

Meanwhile, a security official said seven soldiers were killed Friday in two separate attacks in the cities of Marib and Shabwa.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to brief the media, said unknown gunmen ambushed an army patrol and killed five soldiers in Marib, a stronghold of Yemen's active al-Qaida offshoot. Two soldiers were killed in the same way in Shabwa, hometown of radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki whom the United States has put on a kill-or-capture list, accusing him of becoming an active al-Qaida operative.

After noon prayers Friday — termed "the Friday of Decisiveness" by protesters — anti-government demonstrators rallied in 15 cities, said Abdel-Hadi al-Azazi, a leader of Youth Revolution in Sanaa. Tens of thousands of Saleh supporters gathered at a main square in Sanaa, calling it "Unity Friday."

In the city of Ibb, masked gunmen on rooftops of government buildings and soldiers in vehicles fired on protesters, who set fire to two of the military vehicles, according to activist Ibrahim al-Badani. He said dozens of protesters were injured, 10 critically, in Ibb. Three more were hurt in Taiz, said Ghazi al-Samai, an activist there.

On Thursday, two anti-government protesters were killed by police trying to disperse crowds, witnesses said.

The government has taken unprecedented security measures, using armored vehicles, soldiers and security men to block roads leading to Sanaa, stopping protesters coming in from the capital outskirts. It has placed special units to guard important government institutions.

Saleh called protesters' seizure of some government offices, including the Oil Ministry in Taiz, "an act to sabotage in three months what we have built in 33 years." He added, "He who wants power should come through the ballot box."