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June 16, 2011

Dueling Rallies Under Way in Yemen

Yemenis are taking to the streets across the country, with demonstrators renewing calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh's removal from office and others voicing support for the embattled leader.

Thousands of anti-government protesters massed after midday prayers on Friday.  Some chanted and waved the Yemeni flag.

Meanwhile, Yemen's state-run television says loyalists have gathered in the capital, Sana'a, where they have been waving banners and chanting pro-government slogans.

Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia, where he is recuperating from injuries sustained in a bomb attack on his presidential compound earlier this month.

The Reuters news agency and the Associated Press, quoting Yemeni officials, reported that Saleh plans to return "in days." But the French agency quotes an unnamed Saudi official as saying Saleh will not be coming back to Yemen.

Saleh's absence has come at a time when the country is battling both government dissent and attacks from militant groups.

On Thursday, armed militants renewed attacks against government buildings near the southern Yemeni town of Houta, which they had assaulted on Wednesday.

Residents said the attackers briefly took over a security headquarters and council offices in Masameer, which is close to Houta, before retreating.

Also Thursday, Yemen's Defense Ministry said two people were killed after "terrorists" fired mortar rounds in the city of Zinjibar, most of whose population has fled to the port of Aden.  Militants seized Zinjibar and another southern city in May.

Yemeni authorities said they had arrested 10 suspected al-Qaida suspects who had infiltrated Aden from Abyan province.  Abyan is an al-Qaida stronghold.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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