Ceasefire ends as protests against President spread across Yemen

Street fighting raged across the capital Sanaa yesterday after a tenuous truce broke down between tribal groups and forces loyal to the President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as the UN human rights chief said her office had received reports that more than 50 people had been killed by government forces since Sunday.

Global powers have been pressing Mr Saleh to sign a Gulf-led deal to hand over power to try to stem the growing chaos in Yemen, but a government official said yesterday that any ceasefire agreement had ended, with tribal groups seizing control of a government building. There are currently three main flashpoints in the troubled country, with street fighting in Sanaa, government troops shooting protesters in Taiz, and a battle with al-Qa'ida and Islamist militants in the coastal city of Zinjibar.

A UN official condemned the violence by Mr Saleh's forces, but the President has defied calls from global leaders, elements in his own military and tens of thousands of Yemeni protesters to end his nearly 33-year-rule.

More than 115 people were killed last week in urban battles involving machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, pitting members of the powerful Hashid tribe led by Sadeq al-Ahmar against Mr Saleh's security forces. Yesterday, several explosions were heard in the Sanaa district of Hasaba. In Taiz, about 120 miles south of the capital, regime forces continued to fire on protesters.

The UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, said dozens may have been killed since Sunday, when troops using bulldozers and assault rifles began a violent crackdown on protesters. "The UN human rights office has received reports, which remain to be fully verified, that more than 50 people have been killed since Sunday in Taiz by Yemeni army, Republican Guards and other government-affiliated elements," said Ms Pillay. "Such reprehensible acts of violence and indiscriminate attacks on unarmed civilians by armed security officers must stop immediately."

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