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Military shelling kills nine in Yemen's second largest city

Two women and a small child were among the casualties reported by a medic.

SANAA // Forces loyal to Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh shelled the country's second largest city Taez early on Friday, killing nine people, among them two women and a child, a medic and witnesses said.

"The bombing killed nine people this morning (Friday), all of them civilians," the medical source said, adding that two women and a nine-year-old child were among those killed and that dozens of other people were wounded.

Security forces began operations shortly after midnight (2100 GMT Thursday) in the area of Freedom Square, where demonstrators had rallied to call for the fall of the regime, witnesses told AFP.

Residents said the shelling intensified on Friday morning, focusing on the neighbourhoods of al-Rawdah and Zeid al-Mushky in Taez, which have been at the forefront of anti-regime protests.

On Thursday, one man was killed and nine other people were wounded in Taez, said medics.

Witnesses said Republican Guard troops, commanded by Saleh's son Ahmed, fired artillery rounds into the centre of Taez where tens of thousands of protesters were calling for the veteran leader's prosecution.

The escalation in violence coincides with the return of the UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, to revive efforts aimed at resolving the country's political turmoil.

Benomar, who arrived in the capital Sanaa on Thursday, began meeting with several government and opposition figures to discuss recent developments and the best means for resolving the current crisis.

"My visit came to reach a political reconciliation and to sign the Gulf initiative" by which President Ali Abdullah Saleh will step down in return for immunity from prosecution for himself and his family, Benomar told reporters upon his arrival.

Officials of the ruling party and delegates negotiating on behalf of the opposition told AFP on Thursday the talks were making progress.

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