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Yemen says soldier killed in protest city of Taiz

SANAA (Reuters) - Gunmen attacked a Yemeni military patrol in the southern city of Taiz, killing a soldier, Yemen’s state news agency said on Friday, in a resumption of clashes between loyalists and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a demonstration to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz August 11, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer

Separately, in the southern province of Abyan where tribesmen and the military are waging a campaign against Islamists who have seized swathes of territory, officials said an airstrike had killed 10 Islamist fighters.

The agency called the Taiz attackers “anarchic, lawless elements,” without specifying their identity. Two other soldiers were wounded, it said.

Taiz has been the scene of months of popular protests demanding the removal of Saleh, who is now in Saudi Arabia where he went for treatment of wounds suffered in an assassination attempt in June.

The protests in Taiz, 120 miles from the capital Sanaa, have split the city into halves controlled by government forces and those aligned with tribesmen who want him gone and side with anti-Saleh demonstrators.

Several ceasefires between the belligerents have collapsed, including one that was to have taken force this week.

The standoff over Saleh’s fate has paralyzed the Arab world’s poorest country, with Yemen’s multiple regional conflicts, including one with Islamists in a southern province, flaring up since protests against him broke out in January.

Neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United States, which long made Saleh a key to its counter-terrorism policy, fear chaos in Yemen would embolden the country’s al Qaeda wing, the apparent perpetrator of attempted attacks on Saudi and U.S. targets.

Saleh said this week he would cooperate with Yemen’s opposition and international powers to revive a plan to ease him from office brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, a bloc of Yemen’s wealthier Gulf neighbors.

His renewed interest in the plan, which he previously agreed to only to back out three times, follows prodding from U.S. envoys to hand over power.

The U.N. Security Council echoed that call on Tuesday, citing a humanitarian crisis and the al Qaeda threat.

A local government official in Abyan province said on Friday that a government air strike on the town of al-Khamila had killed 10 Islamist fighters the previous evening.

The town lies near the provincial capital of Zinjibar, which fell to Islamist militants in May, sparking a round of clashes that has displaced some 90,000 of Abyan’s residents.

Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf; Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Gareth Jones