Yemen: Forces clash with tribal fighters near Sanaa

About 100 armed fighters loyal to a tribal leader in Yemen have clashed with security forces on the northern outskirts of the capital, Sanaa.

Tribal leaders say hundreds more are marching towards the city in support of their leader, Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar.

Meanwhile, flights have been suspended at Sanaa airport, passengers and an aviation official said.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh is refusing to step down despite months of opposition against his 33-year rule.

While the protests have been largely peaceful so far, the recent fighting between tribesmen and government forces threatens to drag Yemen into civil war, analysts say.

Fresh battles took place overnight between between supporters of Sheikh Ahmar, who leads the powerful Hashid tribal federation, and government forces in Sanaa's northern Hassaba neighbourhood.

The BBC's Lina Sinjab in Sanaa says loud explosions could be heard throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning.

But it is unclear whether the tribal fighters have managed to get into the city, our correspondent says.

At least 39 people were killed in the city on Wednesday following the breakdown of a ceasefire at the weekend.

Sheikh Ahmar pledged his support in March to protesters who have been demanding Mr Saleh step down.

Elsewhere in the country, government forces opened fire on protesters in the flashpoint southern city of Taiz.

Clashes took place near the presidential palace and a post held by the Republican Guard, an elite army unit loyal to President Saleh and led by his son Ahmed, according to AFP.

At least 50 people have been killed in Taiz since Sunday, according to the UN.

On Tuesday, the US urged President Saleh to "to move Yemen forward" by signing a Gulf Co-operation Council-brokered deal that would see him hand over to his deputy in return for an amnesty from prosecution.

He has agreed to sign the deal on several occasions, but then backed out.

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