09/20/2011, 00.00
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Fifty-six dead as battle rages in Sanaa between government and opposition forces

Government forces bomb opposition camp, which demands the resignation Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power for 33 years. UN and Gulf Cooperation Council envoys are in Sanaa to obtain government agreement to transition plan.
Sanaa (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least 56 people were killed in the last 24 hours in the deadliest clashes in months between supporters and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 33 years. Government soldiers have shelled an opposition camp in the outskirts of the capital Sanaa, local eyewitnesses said. Gunfire and explosions could be heard throughout the night in the city. At least nine people have died in the last few hours from gunshot wounds, hospital sources said. At the same time, opposition forces have taken over various strategic locations in the capital and continue to press for the president’s resignation.

Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in Saudi Arabia since June where he is hospitalised from wounds incurred in an attack against the mosque of the presidential palace on 3 June (see “Yemenis celebrate Saleh’s departure, but doubt lingers over his possible return, in AsiaNews, 6 June 2011 http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Yemenis-celebrate-Saleh%E2%80%99s-departure,-but-doubt-linger-over-his-possible-return-21759.html).

Saudi authorities along with the five monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have come up with a transition plan that would allow Saleh to leave after 33 years in power.

United Nations mediator Jamal bin Omar and Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Abdbullatif al-Zayani arrived in Sanaa on Monday to encourage Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is temporarily running the country, to sign the plan.

Eyewitnesses said that government snipers have shot at protesters from the rooftops in Sanaa, but government officials have consistently denied the claim, blaming the troubles instead on al-Qaeda-linked forces.

Meanwhile, government forces are engaged in major fighting with army units that defected to the opposition. Troops loyal to the protesters on Monday seized a base of the republican guards, an elite force loyal to President Saleh.

A final battle could pit the pro-government forces against the opposition and their tribal allies.
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