The death toll from fierce clashes and shelling that erupted in the wake of a U.N. call for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down has risen to 20, officials and medics said on Sunday.
The violence Saturday began at dawn with intense shelling of the Hasaba district, home to tribal chief Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar who opposes Saleh, where explosions were heard throughout the day and into the evening.
Intense street battles followed between troops loyal to Saleh and rival forces throughout the capital Sana’a, leaving at least 20 people dead, and dozens of others wounded, according to the latest tally by medics and government officials.
Medics said at least four of the casualties were civilians, including an employee of the private Yemeni TV channel Saida.
They added that at least six armed tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadeq were also killed in Saturday’s violence.
A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP five pro-Saleh soldiers were killed and dozens of others were wounded in battles with armed tribesmen and rival forces loyal to dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar who defected in March.
The general and tribal chief, once staunch allies of Saleh, have declared their support for the nation-wide anti-government protests that erupted in January.
In recent weeks, armed confrontations between rival forces and militias have intensified, raising fears that Saleh’s continued refusal to resign will push the impoverished country to an all-out civil war.
Mohsen, who said his First Armored Division lost five soldiers in Saturday's clashes, accused Saleh of ordering his sons and relatives, who command Yemen's elite forces, to wage an attack.