Clashes in Yemen second city Taez kill eight, medics report

AFP , Thursday 1 Dec 2011

Taez, Yemen's second largest city, faces renewed clashes between forces loyal to the regime and dissidents, killing five civilians and thirty wounded

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Anti-government protesters flash the victory sign as they carry a poster of North Yemen's late president Ibrahim al-Hamdi, Wednesday (Photo: Reuters)

Clashes between forces loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and dissident tribesmen in the country's second-largest city Taez killed eight people, five of them civilians, on Thursday, medics said.

"Eight people, including five civilians, were killed and 30 wounded," a medic from the city's Al-Rawda neighbourhood told AFP.

Witnesses said the fighting erupted before dawn as loyalist troops tried to storm the city centre, a stronghold of armed tribesmen who have pledged support to the protest movement against Saleh's 33-year rule.

Troops of the loyalist 33rd Brigade fired artillery rounds at several neighbourhoods of Taez, a stronghold of the anti-government protests raging since January, but met stiff resistance, residents said.

All roads leading into the city have been blocked by fierce fighting that has left outlying districts isolated from the city centre.

The Yemeni government accuses what it says are "militias from Al-Islah," an Islamist movement that is the main opposition party in parliament, of being behind the unrest and deploying in residential areas across Taez.

On Tuesday, Saleh's forces shelled several neighbourhoods of the city, killing one person and destroying dozens of homes, medics and residents said.

Violence across Yemen has left hundreds dead since the protests erupted. A UN-backed power transfer deal signed by the veteran strongman last month has failed to halt the violence.

An opposition leader was called on to form a caretaker government on Sunday after Saleh announced a pardon for those who "committed errors during the crisis."

The announcement that opposition chief Mohammed Basindawa, a former member of Saleh's ruling party, would form a national unity government to rule until early elections in February, was the clearest sign yet that Saleh had accepted the deal to cede power.

"Mohammed Salem Basindawa was charged with forming a national reconciliation government," said the decree said, which according to the state-run Saba news agency was issued by Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who has assumed Saleh's powers under the transition deal.

The UN Security Council called on Monday for those behind killings and human rights abuses in Yemen to be "held accountable," as demands grow for Saleh to face trial despite promises of immunity from prosecution for him and his family extended under last month's agreement with the parliamentary opposition.

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