Fierce clashes erupt in Yemeni capital

SANAA, Oct 22, 2011 (AFP) - Fierce clashes erupted in the Yemeni capital between troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and rival forces on Saturday, a day after the UN urged the embattled leader to hand over power.

Witnesses and AFP correspondents in Sanaa said explosions were heard throughout Sanaa from early hours and massive plumes of smoke and fire seen rising from several neighbourhoods where opposition forces are stationed.

An AFP correspondent said ambulances were seen racing out of the Hasaba district that is home to tribal chief sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar and his brothers, whose armed tribesmen have been battling Saleh's troops for weeks.

There was no immediate word on casualties.

In the Change Square area, where thousands of protesters have been camped out calling for Saleh to quit, fierce clashes erupted between government troops and defected soldiers loyal to dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar.

Mohsen and Sadeq, former staunch allies of Saleh, are now his arch-rivals, each having thrown their support behind the nationwide protests which have triggered the political crisis sweeping Yemen.

Saturday's violence came a day after the UN Security council unanimously passed a resolution that "strongly" condemns the deadly government attacks on demonstrators and backs a Gulf plan for Saleh to end his 33 years in power.

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