News / Middle East

Yemen President Wounded in Palace Shelling

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh reacts while delivering a speech to his supporters, during a rally in his support in Sana'a, May 20, 2011
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh reacts while delivering a speech to his supporters, during a rally in his support in Sana'a, May 20, 2011

Yemeni officials say President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been wounded during an attack on his compound in Sana'a.  Yemen's state media said three guards were killed in the strike, which brought the nation's upheaval to the heart of the government. 

Authorities say President Saleh suffered minor injuries when rocket fire hit a mosque in the presidential compound during midday prayers Friday.  

Shortly after the attack, officials said Saleh would appear at a news conference, an apparent bid to dispel opposition and some media reports that the president had been more seriously injured or possibly killed. Others close to the president indicated only a statement would be released.

Hours later, with the president not appearing in public, speculation on the exact nature of his injuries added to the uncertainty gripping the capital. Saleh is reportedly being treated in a military hospital.

Deputy Information Minister Abduh al-Janadi went on state-run television Friday evening. Janadi said Saleh is in good health, but the news conference has been postponed because of the "scratches" that the president received - a statement unlikely to quell the concerns.

Officials blamed the attack on forces loyal to the al-Ahmar clan, which have been battling government troops in the capital for nearly two weeks.

But there has been no official claim of responsibility, and the opposition to the president includes government forces who have defected in recent weeks.

Earlier in the day, government troops had fired on houses belonging to members of the al-Ahmar family as well as an opposition military officer. A government official believed the attack on the presidential compound - the first of its kind - was in retaliation.

Forces loyal to tribal leader Sadeq al-Ahmar have been growing in number, with reinforcements trying to enter the city from the north. The sheikh, who heads the Hashid tribal federation, is pushing for Saleh to step down.

But the president has three times rejected a regionally-mediated plan that would see a transition of power.

Violence is also continuing in Taiz against political protesters, and in Zinjibar against Islamic militants who have seized control of the city.   

The various tribal and Islamist forces as well as high-ranking military defectors are turning what began as peaceful political protests four months ago into what many observers fear is near all-out civil war.

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