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Battles spread outside Yemeni capital

SANA, Yemen — The deadly fighting that rocked the Yemeni capital this week spread beyond Sana on Friday as armed tribesmen seeking to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh seized two military camps in battles that killed at least 18 and prompted airstrikes by government warplanes, tribal leaders said.

The fighting brought to at least 124 the number killed in the past five days of bloodshed, which has raised fears that the Arab world's poorest country could be thrown into civil war as Saleh clings to power in the face of peaceful protests demanding his ouster.

Fighters from Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation, the Hashid, seized the military base in the Fardha Nehem region northeast of Sana, said local tribal leader Sheik Ali Saif. Yemen's Interior Ministry denied the base's capture in a statement.

Later, tribal fighters seized a nearby army base after striking a deal with the soldiers that allowed them to leave with their personal weapons, local tribal leader Abdul-Moin al-Sharif said.

Also Friday, hundreds of Islamic militants seized control in Zinjibar, the capital of the southern province of Abyan, killing eight police officers and two civilians in gunfights with guards, security officials said.

Saleh has managed to cling to power despite defections, protests and pressure from Arab neighbors and Western powers to leave office. Efforts to mediate his exit collapsed last week when he declined to sign a deal for him to step down in 30 days.

He has retained the loyalty of the regime's most elite military units — all commanded by close relatives.

Battles spread outside Yemeni capital 05/27/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 27, 2011 11:53pm]

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