40 killed as violence rages on in Yemen
Sana’a - Fighting raged on Saturday in the Yemeni capital, leaving at least 40 dead as forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh battled pro-opposition soldiers and moved to clear the protest camp at a Sana’a square that has been the epicentre of the country's uprising.
The latest spasm of violence came a day after Saleh suddenly returned to Yemen after more than three months of being treated in Saudi Arabia following an assassination attempt on him in June.
Saleh's return on Friday apparently aimed to ensure his grip on power as his loyalists and opponents wage urban warfare in Sana’a.
Saleh's forces were battling on three fronts on Saturday.
In the northwest section of Sana’a, mortars rained down on the headquarters of the 1st Armoured Division, led by Saleh's former ally Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar who months ago sided with the opposition and whose followers have since been protecting the protesters' daily sit-ins and marches in Change Square.
Eleven of al-Ahmar's troops were killed in the shelling and 112 were wounded, according to Abdel-Ghani al-Shimiri, a spokesperson for the opposition soldiers.
Around the square itself, Republican Guard forces led by Saleh's son, Ahmed, along with Central Security forces battled al-Ahmar's troops in an attempt to clear the square of protesters and end more than seven months of their encampment.
Using anti-aircraft guns, automatic weapons and RPGs, Republican Guard forces intensified the shelling of the streets surrounding the square, while large number of snipers on rooftops hunted down protesters.
Mohammed al-Qabati, a medic who works at the field hospital set up at the square, said 29 people were killed there since the early hours on Saturday, both from among the protesters and the troops guarding them.
He said 54 people were also wounded in the attack.
"More bodies and injured are pouring into the hospital," said al-Qabati, adding that ambulances have been forces to leave many bodies in the streets because of the heavy fighting. "Many of the injured get here by motorcycles."
The scene was chaotic as thousands of protesters ran back and forth searching for cover in nearby buildings, and witnesses said several houses were wrecked when hit by mortars as street battles raged between rival groups of soldiers.