Armed Dissidents Overrun Yemen's city of Taez

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Armed dissidents have seized control of most of Yemen's second largest city Taez, following clashes with troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a top tribal chief said Tuesday.

"I consider Taez to have fallen under the control" of the dissidents, Sheikh Hammoud Saeed al-Mikhlafi, the head of the tribal council in Taez told Agence France Presse by telephone.

He said that tribal gunmen have been deployed in the city to "protect the peaceful (anti-regime) demonstrators" after they faced a "genocide" by pro-Saleh security forces last week.

More than 50 demonstrators were killed last week after security forces cracked down on a sit-in in Freedom Square in central Taez, according to the U.N. human rights office.

"We the tribes, in support to the oppressed and in retaliation against the illegitimate government... have deployed around government installations... which we now control in order to protect from thugs," he said.

He said that clashes "continued until the morning with remnants" of loyal troops, pointing to the Republican Guard and the Central Security, led by members of Saleh's family.

Saleh left for Saudi Arabia on Saturday for treatment, a day after being wounded in a bomb attack on a mosque in his presidential compound in Sanaa.

Anti-regime protesters who have been in the streets since late January have pushed for a swift transfer of power in Saleh's absence, but the veteran leader's deputy said on Monday that Saleh will be back in days.

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