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Bangkok Street Fighting Continues, Death Toll Mounts

'Red shirt' anti-governement protesters carry a civilian after he was allegedly shot by a Thai army sniper near Ragprarop intersection during ongoing clashes in Bangkok, 15 May 2010

Street fighting continues in the Thai capital, Bangkok, as anti-government protesters try to push back soldiers who have surrounded their camp. At least 22 people were killed in the last two days and at least 170 wounded.

Gunfire and explosions continued Saturday as protesters for a third day clashed with security forces surrounding their camp.

Saturday afternoon, just north of the protest area, the Thai army spread razor wire and set up checkpoints. They put up signs that read "live fire zone" and urged people not to enter.

The anti-government red shirts set up their own barricades of rubber tires and slowly drove a yellow tanker truck toward the soldiers, until shots were fired. Demonstrators hit the ground and scattered into alleyways.

A few protesters could be seen limping away bleeding, apparently shot, but still defiant. They received medical care from nurses standing by to aid casualties.

Army spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd spoke on national television and said the government regrets the deaths and injuries. He says the army has been trying very hard to use measures to end the protest while avoiding any losses.

Authorities blame the clashes on violent elements among the protesters that they say have fired grenades and guns at soldiers who were forced to return fire. Protesters, however, say soldiers and snipers are aiming to kill them.

The latest violence broke out Thursday after a Thai general supporting the protesters was shot, apparently by a sniper. The protesters have occupied a central commercial district for more than two months, demanding the government step down and allow new elections.

A deal for November elections broke down after protest leaders demanded government leaders face charges for the violent clashes. The government says it expects to restore order within a matter of days.

Saturday evening, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva went on national television and said the security operations are the only way to restore normalcy in the capital. He asked the public to cooperate with security forces.

But Bangkok is looking and sounding increasingly like a war zone. Well into Saturday night, explosions and gunfire could be heard in the city center.

And normally bustling streets near the protest area are empty with shops closed and few people daring to walk on the streets. Most mass transit has been shut down and many highways are closed by the fighting.