Yemeni government forces have killed at least 11 civilians in one of the country’s largest cities, a day after a United Nations envoy started a mission to urge President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power.
Medical officials and witnesses say civilians were killed early Friday when Yemeni forces renewed shelling in Taiz, where demonstrators have been calling for President Saleh’s departure.
News reports say pro-government forces opened fire near Freedom Square, the site of ongoing protests against Mr. Saleh. The Reuters news agency says deadly clashes have also erupted between pro-Saleh forces and followers of opposition tribal leaders.
Meanwhile in the capital, Sana’a, tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in competing demonstrations for and against President Saleh.
The turmoil has coincided with a visit by U.N. envoy Jamal bin Omar who arrived Thursday in Yemen to try to convince the president to accept an initiative that calls for him to step down.
The Yemeni leader has indicated on several occasions that he would accept the terms of the agreement, which was brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). However, each time he has backed away without signing the plan.
For months, opposition activists have held demonstrations calling on Mr. Saleh to resign. The president’s supporters frequently have held rival rallies coinciding with the opposition protests.
Mr. Saleh could face increased pressure from the European Union next week to accept the GCC initiative. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe says the EU is set to discuss a plan that would freeze Mr. Saleh’s assets if he does not agree to end his 33-year rule.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.