Middle East

Fighting shakes Yemeni capital Sanaa

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Media captionThe BBC's Yolande Knell says violence has flared in recent days

At least 12 people have died in renewed fighting in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, between forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponents.

The sound of explosions and gunfire echoed around the city early on Monday.

Four people were killed in a camp housing thousands of anti-government protesters and at least eight others died in fighting elsewhere in Sanaa.

Mr Saleh faces increasing international pressure to step down. He accuses his opponents of trying to stage a coup.

The clashes began after midnight local time and intensified in the early hours, pausing briefly during the dawn call to prayer.

Rockets, mortars and heavy machine-guns were used as Yemeni tribes and rebels opposing the president took on government forces in a northern suburb.

Mr Saleh blamed al-Qaeda and Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood for co-operating to stir up unrest.

He described his opponents as "insane people who can't sleep and only want to take power".

Later on Monday, thousands of women demonstrated in front of the foreign ministry in Sanaa, calling for the international community to help end the conflict in Yemen after a woman was shot dead in a protest on Sunday in the city of Taiz.

The UN Security Council is due to meet later in the week to consider calling for a ceasefire and a handover of power.

Weekend protests

The overnight fighting in Sanaa follows clashes over the weekend between the security forces and protesters demanding an end to Mr Saleh's 33-year rule.

At least 12 people were killed on Saturday and four more on Sunday.

Anti-government protesters, backed up by units of the army that have defected, have been trying to increase the pressure on Mr Saleh by moving into areas of Sanaa held by his supporters.

The BBC's Yolande Knell, reporting from Cairo, Egypt, says it has been some of the worst violence seen during eight months of street protests in Yemen.

Mr Saleh said last week that he would step down "in the coming days", but gave no precise timetable for his departure.

He has made similar gestures before, only to pull out of deals for him to step aside at the last minute.