|The capital of Sanaa was rocked by fighting early in the day as anti-regime demonstrator took to the streets [AFP]
Heavy gunfire and explosions have rocked the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and the southern city of Taiz, as clashes between government troops and rival tribesman killed at least three people.
Late on Thursday, in the protest hotbed of Taiz, south of the capital, one person was killed and five others were wounded as activists said their protest camp, where demonstrators have camped out for months to demand the ouster of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, was attacked.
"As dusk set in there was heavy gunfire on the camp, the bullets were flying over our heads. Now we're seeing armoured vehicles approaching the square and we're afraid they are going to storm it," said activist Bushra al-Maqtari.
Northern districts of the capital of Sanaa were also rocked by fighting early in the day, but the city later settled into a tense calm, with extra checkpoints set up by warring factions and many streets still deserted.
The office of the tribal chief al-Ahmar said two of his brother’s personal guards, were killed and five others were wounded in Thursday’s clashes.
Shelling and gunfire had engulfed parts of north Sanaa at dawn as troops and tribes loyal to the president battled armed followers of powerful tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar, Reuters news agency quoted one of its reporters at the scene as saying.
Breaking the truce
The fighting broke a truce aimed at ending the worst violence since a revolt against Saleh began eight months ago.
Many residents fled their homes as the fighting intensified, shattering three days of calm after Saleh ordered a ceasefire on his surprise return to Yemen on Friday.
"I only returned to the streets two days ago after clashes stopped, but I'll stick to the south of Sanaa today because it's safer," said ice-cream vendor Abdullah al-Wasabi.
The truce halted a week of fighting that killed more than 100 people and revived fears that Yemen, which borders top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, would tip into civil war.
Until last week, Saleh had been recuperating in Riyadh from a June assassination attempt. Western diplomats had pressed him to stay in Saudi Arabia while they struggled to push through a long-stalled plan to transfer power.
The president has hung on in the face of nationwide protests that drew strength from popular revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.
During the lull politicians and diplomats had scrambled to revive a Gulf-brokered plan under which Saleh would stand down.
Gulf nations and Western powers have been exasperated by Saleh's repeated last-minute refusals to sign agreed transition deals.