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Yemen expels 4 Western journalists

Four journalists were expelled from Yemen on Monday after reporting on unrest that included government forces firing on unarmed civilians.

Haley Sweetland Edwards, a freelance reporter working for The Times, was among the group of reporters deported after five armed men raided their home in the early morning.

Edwards was still in her pajamas when she was taken to meet a military colonel who said the group was being expelled for national security reasons. The journalists were able to return to the home to collect their belongings before going to the airport with a military escort.

The others forced to leave the country were Portia Walker, a British reporter working for the Washington Post; Oliver Holmes, a British reporter working for the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine; and Joshua Maricich, an American photographer.

The dispatches filed by the journalists often contradicted the official version given by the government of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which has insisted that live ammunition has been used only in self-defense.

Since last month, more than 30 protesters have been killed during massive demonstrations to oust Saleh and promote democratic reforms.

Only a few foreign journalists, mostly freelance reporters, remain in Yemen. Since government clashes with protesters began last month, Saleh's administration has stopped granting visas for additional reporters.

After the government's decision to expel Edwards and the three others, unnamed officials told the Associated Press that the journalists had entered the country illegally.

Edwards, however, declared that she was a journalist upon entry and quickly registered as a reporter with police. Additional notice was sent to the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, and Saleh's spokesman approved her visa. It remained valid at the time of her detention.

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

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