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Yemeni women burn veils in protest

Hundreds of Yemeni women set fire to traditional female veils in protest at the government's brutal crackdown against the country's popular uprising, as overnight clashes in the capital and another city killed 25 people, officials said.

In the capital, Sanaa, the women spread a black cloth across a main street and threw their full-body veils, known as makrama, onto a pile, sprayed it with oil and set it alight. As the flames rose, they chanted: "Who protects Yemeni women from the crimes of the thugs?"

Women in Yemen have taken a key role in the uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's authoritarian rule which erupted in March, inspired by other Arab revolutions.

Their role came into the spotlight earlier this month, when activist Tawakkul Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with two Liberian women, for their struggle for women's rights.

The protest, however, was not related to women's rights or issues surrounding the Islamic veils - the act of women burning their clothing is a symbolic Bedouin tribal gesture signifying an appeal for help to tribesmen, in this case to stop the attacks on the protesters.

The women who burned clothing in the capital were wearing traditional veils at the time, many covered in black from head to toe.

The protest came as clashes intensified between Mr Saleh's forces and renegade fighters who have sided with the protesters and the opposition in demands that the president step down.

Medical and local officials said up to 25 civilians, tribal fighters and government soldiers died overnight in Sanaa and the city of Taiz despite a ceasefire announcement by Mr Saleh late on Tuesday. Scores of others were wounded.

A medical official said seven tribal fighters were among those killed in Sanaa's Hassaba district. Another medical official said four residents and nine soldiers also died in the fighting there.

Government forces also shelled houses in Taiz - a hotbed of anti-Saleh protests - killing five people, including four members of one family, a local official said.

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