Yemeni security forces stormed a protest camp in a southern city early Monday morning, shooting indiscriminately, setting fire to the camp and killing at least 20 people, a medical volunteer said.
The city of Taiz has seen large anti-government protests calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ouster since early February.
Sadek Shugaa, a volunteer medic at the field hospital at the protest camp in Taiz, said he watched as snipers took up positions around the camp while other Yemeni forces used water cannons to clear the area early Monday.
The violence came a day after the beleaguered government claimed that Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province in the south, had been overrun by the country’s Al Qaeda affiliate, while the political opposition and dissident generals blamed the president for losing control of the city.
Government reinforcements were sent there overnight, and a local resident reported heavy fighting and explosions throughout Monday morning as troops took on the militants.
Government officials said four soldiers were killed in an ambush as they approached the city, but there was no other word on casualties.
Clashes were also reported Sunday night in Arhab, north of Sana. Artillery explosions could be heard as tribesmen fought Republican Guard troops into the early hours of Monday morning.
Craig is a special correspondent.