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Saleh injured in rocket attack

In this April 8, 2011 file photo, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh reacts while looking at his supporters during a rally in S

Source : Ahmed Al-Haj | AP
SANAA | 03 Jun 2011

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded when opposition tribesmen determined to topple him hammered his palace with rockets Friday in a major escalation of nearly two weeks of fighting with government forces. At least six guards were killed and eight top officials wounded, an official said.

He said Saleh suffered slight injuries to the neck, and state TV aired a statement saying he was "in good health" and would speak to the public within hours. But the extent of the embattled president's injuries was not clear.

After initially saying Saleh was treated at the palace, the official later said he was moved to a Defense Ministry hospital. Also, Saleh's planned public appearance was postponed "because of scratches on his face," Deputy Information Minister Abdu Al-Janadi said. "There is nothing effecting the president's health," Al-Janadi said, adding that Saleh would appear "as soon as possible, once he is treated."

It was the first time that tribal fighters have directly targeted Saleh's palace in fighting that has rocked the capital since May 23. Sanaa residents have been hiding in basements as the two sides duke it out with artillery and gunbattles, shaking neighborhoods and sending palls of smoke over the city. Earlier Friday, intense government shelling flattened the homes of two tribal leaders and a military general who also joined the opposition.

Protesters have been trying since February to oust Saleh with a wave of peaceful protests that has brought out hundreds of thousands daily in Sanaa and other cities.

But now the crisis has escalated into a fight for power between two of Yemen's most powerful families: Saleh's and the Al-Ahmar family, who lead Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation, called the Hashid.

Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ahmar, head of the Hashid, announced his backing for the protest movement in March, but it was only when Saleh's troops moved against Al-Ahmar's residence in Sanaa last week that Hashid fighters erupted in retaliation, and the battles have escalated since.

On Friday, a volley of at least three rockets hit in and around Saleh's presidential compound. One struck a mosque in the compound where Saleh and senior officials were praying. The blast wounded many in the top echelons of Saleh's leadership, including the prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, the heads of the two houses of Parliament and the governor of Sanaa, as well as the mosque's preacher, said the official. The most serious injuries were to Sanaa Gov. Nooman Dweid and Deputy Prime Minister Rashad Al-Alimi.

GCC Secretary-General Abdul-Latif Al-Zayani appealed to Yemenis to end the fighting. "This is very regrettable and is of no benefit to anyone. The loser is the Yemeni people," Al-Zayani told Al Arabiya TV. He said the GCC is prepared to exert more effort to mend the differences between Yemenis.


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