Yemeni military battles opponents on two fronts

The New York Times reports:

The government pounded a major coastal city on Monday with airstrikes to dislodge Islamic militants and, to the west, smashed the country’s largest antigovernment demonstration in overnight clashes that killed at least 20 protesters, according to witnesses reached by phone.

In Zinjibar, along the country’s southern coast, residents said warplanes attacked militant positions with repeated bombing runs beginning early Monday afternoon, a day after Islamists of uncertain affiliation took control, seizing banks and a central government compound. The compound was hit in the airstrikes and also shelled by the army, witnesses said.

It is unclear how many people have died in the Zinjibar fighting, which began Friday. The city has few medical services left, and no electricity or water, people there say. Hundreds have fled; others have taken refuge in local mosques, residents said.

In the city of Taiz, west of Zinjibar, security forces and plainclothes gunmen swept through a main square, driving out the thousands of protesters seeking the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Witnesses said that security forces descended from three directions in a thick cloud of tear gas late Sunday afternoon, and that the clashes continued until after midnight with security forces firing water cannons and setting the protesters’ tents ablaze with Molotov cocktails. Video posted on social networking sites by opposition groups showed protesters scattering as plainclothes gunmen fired from doorways and from rooftops. Bulldozers and tractors demolished remnants of the sit-in. Sporadic gunfire echoed through the city on Monday, witnesses said.

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