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Tribesmen shoot down Yemen warplane

Tribesmen have shot down a Yemeni government war plane which was bombing their positions north of the capital Sanaa, military officials said.

A Defence Ministry official confirmed the downing of the plane in the district of Arhab, north of Sanaa, but gave no further details. The official told the state news agency that anti-government groups were behind the shooting.

Tribesmen overran a military base belonging to Yemen's elite Republican Guards earlier this week in the area where the aircraft was shot down.

The capture of the base followed weeks of intermittent fighting between the tribesmen and government forces. The tribesmen are believed to have seized a large number of weapons from the base, including anti-aircraft guns.

A tribesman said the war plane's pilot is now in the custody of the tribe.

Yemen has been rocked by near daily mass protests demanding the resignation of long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh, plunging the impoverished nation into deep political crisis.

Armed tribesmen and defecting military units who are supporting the protesters have joined the fray, turning the upheaval into an armed confrontation which is looking increasingly like a civil war.

The confrontation escalated just before Mr Saleh returned to Yemen last week after spending months in Saudi Arabia recovering from injuries suffered in an attack on his presidential compound in June.

Mr Saleh has repeatedly rejected a US-backed regional initiative which calls for him to step down and hand over power to his vice president to ease the crisis. Since his return on Friday, he has taken no clear decision to indicate he has changed his mind, and the violence has picked up.

The UN Security Council has urged all sides in Yemen to reject violence and take urgent steps toward a political transition, offering its support for the regional plan.

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