Yemeni military forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh have clashed with army units who support the opposition.
The fighting took place Thursday in the southern town of Mukalla. The president’s troops were from his elite Republican Guard. Witnesses say several people were wounded.
The fighting came a day before what Yemen’s opposition is calling the “Day of Departure.” Organizers hope to rally thousands of people in the capital, Sana’a, on Friday to call for Mr. Saleh’s immediate resignation.
On Thursday, the leader of Yemen’s largest tribe, the Baqeel, Sheikh Sinan Abu Lohoum, announced his support for opposition demands.
The opposition is planning the anti-government rally despite a newly-imposed state of emergency. The measures give security forces sweeping powers to prevent protests and detain suspects.
Meanwhile, police in Dubai say the Gulf emirate has seized a shipment of weapons bound for Yemen.
Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim said 16,000 Turkish-made pistols were found hidden in a shipping container in a Dubai warehouse. Authorities say the shipment originated in Turkey and was heading to Yemen’s northern province of Saada, where Shi’ite rebels have fought the government for years.
President Saleh had said previously that he planned to stay in office until his term ends in 2013, in the face of growing protests against his 32-year-rule. But on Tuesday, a spokesman for Saleh said the president was willing to hold early elections this year and leave office by January.
A number of government officials, diplomats and tribal leaders have joined the opposition since a crackdown on protesters killed 52 people last Friday.