Fierce gun battle as Yemeni tribe defects

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The Independent Online

A heavy gun battle erupted between embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's security forces and fighters from Yemen's most powerful tribe yesterday, which defected to the opposition.

At least six people were killed and 25 wounded in the fiercest fighting yet between the pro- and anti-Saleh camps, which raised fears that the collapse of efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution to Yemen’s three month-old crisis could throw the country into violence conflict.

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have been holding protests since February demanding President Saleh’s removal. The violence erupted outside the home of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, leader of Yemen’s largest powerful tribe, the Hashid. Mr Saleh himself belongs the tribe, but Mr Ahmar announced in March that the Hashid were joining the popular uprising against the President. Fighting raged for more than six hours. The cause of the fighting was unclear.

An aide to Mr Ahmar accused security forces of trying to storm the Hashid leader’s residential compound. Some witnesses said security forces had been setting up roadblocks between the walled compound and the nearby Interior Ministry, and that tribesmen saw it as a provocation.