Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yemen street battles escalate, killing 9 people

By AHMED AL-HAJ - Associated Press | Sept. 20, 2011

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Rapidly escalating street battles between opponents of
Yemen's regime and forces loyal to its embattled president spread to the
home districts of senior government figures and other highly sensitive
areas of the capital on Tuesday. A third day of fighting, including a
mortar attack on unarmed protesters, killed nine people, medical officials

The latest deaths took to at least 60 the number of people killed since
Sunday, as anti-regime protesters step up their campaign to topple
President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a key military unit supporting them is
drawn deeper into the fighting. Saleh's forces have hit back with attacks
by rooftop snipers and shelling of protest encampments.

The violence is forcing more of the capital's residents to flee to the
relative safety of rural Yemen. Scores of pickup trucks and sedans loaded
with families and personal belongings could be seen headed out in early
Tuesday morning after a night in which loud explosions repeatedly shook
the city.

Most of those staying put in the capital are not leaving their homes for
fear of snipers or getting caught up in gunfights, leaving the city
looking increasingly deserted on Tuesday morning, with most stores

Yemen's turmoil began in February as the unrest spreading throughout the
Arab world ignited largely peaceful protests in the deeply impoverished
and unstable corner of the Arabian Peninsula that is also home to an
al-Qaida offshoot blamed for several nearly successful attempts to attack
the United States.

The government has responded with a heavy crackdown.

President Saleh went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after a June
attack on his Sanaa compound and has not returned to Yemen, but has
resisted calls to resign.

After the dawn Muslim prayer on Tuesday, Saleh's forces lobbed mortar
shells at Change Square, a plaza at the heart of the city where protesters
have held a sit-in since the uprising began in February.

Medical officials said the shelling killed three protesters, three rebel
soldiers and a bystander.

Clashes between protesters and security forces in the southern city of
Taiz left two more people dead, they said. The officials spoke on
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the

Elsewhere in the capital, clashes between protesters and security forces
erupted in several districts, with gunfire ringing out in areas close to
Saleh's residence and the office of his son and one-time heir apparent,
Ahmed, commander of the elite loyalist Republican Guards and Special

In the upscale district of Hadah, home to senior government officials as
well as tribal leaders opposed to Saleh, gunbattles were raging between
forces loyal to the president's son and bands of tribal fighters opposed
to the regime.

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