Jun 9, 2011
Sana'a/Cairo - Protesters, al-Qaeda gunmen and security forces were killed in southern Yemen on Thursday as clashes continued and the country's political future remained unclear.
At least three soldiers and ten al-Qaeda gunmen died in the city of Zanjibar, where security forces fought to regain control, broadcaster Al Arabiya reported.
In the southern city of Taiz, two protesters were killed and two others injured. It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack.
The protesters were demanding the immediate formation of a transitional council, and for president Ali Abdullah Saleh to remain away from Yemen.
Saleh, who has ruled for 32 years, is in hospital in neighbouring Saudi Arabia after being injured in an attack on his palace on Friday.
For the past four months, protesters have been demanding that Saleh step down. More than 350 people have reportedly been killed in the uprising.
Dozens of people were injured by stray bullets from celebratory gunfire in Sana'a late Wednesday, witnesses said, following news that Saleh was moved out of intensive care following successful surgery.
The Yemeni capital was rocked by the sound of heavy gunfire and fireworks for several hours, while state television and witnesses reported that hundreds were celebrating Saleh's improving health by firing shots in the air.
The celebrations came hours after a protest was dispersed by soldiers from a military brigade led by General Ali Mohsen, who had earlier defected, which has led to confusion about his loyalties.
Meanwhile, witnesses told the German Press Agency dpa that US aircraft bombed the city of Zanjibar, which fell under al-Qaeda control last month.
The United States is using the power vacuum in Yemen to step up air attacks on Islamist militants, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The US has used drones and fighter jets in the strikes, the paper reported, citing unnamed US officials.
Yemen's current regime is a key Washington ally. US military and intelligence operatives have a command post in Sana'a, used to gather information on militants and plan strikes.
Yemeni opposition members have accused Saleh of 'handing over' Zanjibar to al-Qaeda in a bid to gather Western support for his continued grip on power.
Officials in Saleh's party have indicated that they still consider him to be in power and that he will return to Sana'a 'in a few days.'
It is unclear if Saleh is still in power or if his vice president, Abd-Rabbo Manour, - or indeed Saleh's son Ahmed - are now in control of the country.
Saleh has blamed members of his Hashid tribe for the attack Friday in which he was wounded, which also led to the deaths of seven security guards and injured several officials.