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Fierce fighting in Sanaa, Yemen, ahead of UN vote

Yemen’s capital Sanaa was rocked by explosions and gunfire Sunday as troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh battled tribal forces that the ruler claims are attempting to overthrow him, Bloomberg reports. 

Earlier Sunday, security forces opened fired on anti-Saleh demonstrators gathering for a planned march in the capital, killing five, CNN reports. Reuters reports that eight were killed, five of them protesters. 

And in Taiz, in southwest Yemen, a woman was reportedly killed by a shot to the head from a government sniper in Freedom Square.

Violence in Yemen has surged over the past two days, Reuters reports, “with security forces killing at least 12 on Saturday while Al Qaeda insurgents blew up a gas pipeline, halting the impoverished nation’s gas exports.”

Many Yemenis are still hoping for international action to force Saleh to step down.

However, Saleh has said that he expects China and Russia will block a United Nations move to end his rule this week, according to Reuters.

A resolution on Saleh — urging the longtime Yemeni ruler to hand over power under a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) peace plan — is due to go to the Security Council. Beijng and Moscow vetoed a European-sponsored resolution against Syria earlier this month.

Saleh says he is ready to step down but wants to ensure that control of the country is put in safe hands.

“Some friendly states, permanent members of the (Security Council) such as China and Russia, will not take a hardline position like some other permanent members,” Saleh said in comments broadcast on Yemeni state television.

Fierce street battles reportedly flared across Sanaa late Sunday, with fighters using mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades, Katyusha rockets, anti-warplane weapons and heavy machine guns, Xinhua reports.

Troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh were battling the army’s renegade First Armored Division backed by armed tribesmen of opposition tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar in Hassaba.

Saleh went on state television Sunday to accuse the opposition and army defectors of staging a coup attempt, Xinhua reports.

Saleh described those fighting against him Sunday as “insane people, who can’t sleep and only want to take power,” according to Bloomberg.

He blamed the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda for encouraging the unrest.

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