05/26/2011, 00.00
YEMEN
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Fighting breaks out in the streets of Sanaa, as Saleh refuses to go

The country is on the verge of civil war. In the past few hours, dozens of people are killed in the capital. Residents try to flee as the United States orders the evacuation of its citizens. The opposition pledges to intensify its protests against Saleh, in power for 33 years.
Sanaa (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Dozens of people have died in the last few hours when fighting broke out in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, as forces loyal to President Abdullah Saleh battle his opponents, backed by fighters from the Hashid tribe, led by the al-Ahmar family.

The Defence Ministry said in an online posting that at least 28 people were killed in an explosion at a weapons storage area held by the Hashid tribe.

Yemen's state prosecutor ordered the arrest of "rebellious" leaders of the tribal group led by the al-Ahmar family. A government official also announced that the headquarters of an opposition television station had been "destroyed," without giving details.

Residents were fleeing Sanaa by the hundreds, hurriedly fastening possessions to the roofs of cars, hoping to escape the violence that has killed many people since Monday and threatened to spread into other areas of the capital Sanaa. The capital’s airport was also closed for a few hours.

The United States has ordered US nationals to leave Yemen.

Some observers believe that today’s battle could turn into a full-scale civil war. The most recent clashes have been concentrated in a part of northern Sanaa where fighters loyal to powerful tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar have been trying to take over government buildings, including the Interior Ministry.

Clashes broke out after Saleh, for the third time, refused to resigned in accordance with a deal brokered by Gulf States. Under the agreement, the president would quit and a national unity government would be formed.

Abdullah Saleh has ruled Yemen for 33 years. In February, in the wake of demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia, a movement in favour of democracy and reforms began emerging.

Barack Obama has renewed calls for president Saleh to go. But the latter has hit back. "We don't work according to a foreign agenda," he said. "We don't take orders from outsiders. This is an internal affair."

Opposition groups say they will step up their protests if the president does not stand aside.

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