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Street protests in Yemen escalate

Rapidly escalating street battles between opponents of Yemen's regime and forces loyal to its embattled president spread to the home districts of senior government figures and other highly sensitive areas of the capital today.

A third day of fighting, including a mortar attack on unarmed protesters, killed nine people, medical officials said.

The latest deaths took to at least 60 the number of people killed since Sunday, as anti-regime protesters step up their campaign to topple President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a key military unit supporting them is drawn deeper into the fighting.

President Saleh's forces have hit back with attacks by rooftop snipers and shelling of protest encampments.

In Geneva, the United Nations said four children were killed by live ammunition during the unrest on Sunday and Monday. Marixie Mercado, a spokeswoman for the UN children's' fund, also said that 18 minors were injured.

Yemen's turmoil began in February as the unrest spreading throughout the Arab world set off largely peaceful protests in the deeply impoverished and unstable corner of the Arabian Peninsula that is also home to an al Qaida offshoot blamed for several nearly successful attempts to attack the United States.

The government has responded with a heavy crackdown.

After the dawn Muslim prayer today, President Saleh's forces lobbed mortar shells at Change Square, a plaza at the heart of the city where protesters have held a sit-in since the uprising began in February.

Medical officials said the shelling killed three protesters, three rebel soldiers and a bystander.

Clashes between protesters and security forces in the southern city of Taiz left two more people dead, they said.

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