Yemen Anger 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
SANAA - More than 40 Yemenis were killed in pitched street battles in the capital on Thursday as fighting aimed at ending President Ali Abdullah Saleh's three-decade-long rule threatened to ignite civil war.
Residents were fleeing Sanaa by the hundreds, hurriedly fastening possessions to the roofs of cars, hoping to escape the violence that has killed more than 80 people since Monday.
Saleh: I will not allow Yemen to become 'another Somalia'
The fighting, pitting the security forces of President Ali Abdullah Saleh against members of the country's most powerful Hashed tribe led by Sadiq al-Ahmar, was the bloodiest Yemen has seen since protests began in January. The battles threatened to spread into other parts of the capital Sanaa.
The defense ministry said 28 people were killed in an explosion in an arms storage area of Sanaa at dawn on Thursday.
Fighters in civilian clothes roamed some districts on Thursday and machinegun fire rang out sporadically.
Sporadic explosions could be heard in the capital near the protest site
where thousands of people demanding Saleh to leave after nearly 33 years
in power are still camped.
Black smoke from mortar fire mixed with a haze of pollution and dust that hangs over Sanaa like a shroud.
At a meeting in Deauville, France, leaders of the Group of Eight powers
called on Saleh to quit, keen to avert civil war inflaming one part of
the Arab world as they prepared to help new democracies flourish in
"We deplore the fighting that occurred overnight which was a direct
result of the current political impasse, for which President Saleh has
direct responsibility due to his refusal to sign the GCC transition
agreement," a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said, referring to the
Gulf Cooperation Council. For the United States, who long treated Saleh
as an ally against al Qaeda, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in
Paris: "We continue to support the departure of President Saleh who has
consistently agreed that he would be stepping down from power and then
consistently reneged on those agreements."
Washington ordered all non-essential diplomats and embassy family
members to leave Yemen. "The security threat level in Yemen is extremely
high due to terrorist activities and civil unrest," the U.S. State
Yemen's state prosecutor ordered the arrest of "rebellious" leaders of
the tribal group led by the al-Ahmar family and a government official
said the headquarters of an opposition television station had been
"destroyed", without giving details.