Yemen: President Saleh injured in attack on palace

The BBC's Lina Sinjab watched Friday's protests in Sanaa

The president of Yemen has been hurt in an attack on a mosque in his compound in the capital Sanaa, as fighting continues between the government and armed tribes.

In an audio message hours later, Ali Abdullah Saleh said he was well and blamed tribal opponents for the attack.

The PM and speaker of parliament were hurt and seven people killed.

Earlier troops shelled the home of the brother of the tribal leader whose supporters they are fighting.

Thousands meanwhile attended a funeral for 50 people killed in the violence, and there were huge demonstrations after Friday prayers.

In the southern city of Taiz, at least three members of the security forces and two protesters were killed in clashes, officials and doctors said.

It was not clear if the security forces were soldiers or police. One report said they had been killed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

A crackdown on protesters in Taiz on Sunday left more than 50 demonstrators dead.

Analysis

This is the first attack on the presidential palace since the clashes started.

His forces were intending to crush Hamid al-Ahmar's forces. They have moved the fight from the north of the city in Hassaba to the south in Hadda, a residential upper-class area occupied by diplomats, top officials and businessmen. Sheikh Ahmar's house is there and has been heavily targeted.

But the president's army is not as powerful as it was. Its first division, led by Gen Ali Mohsen, has defected to the opposition and has not been involved in the fighting yet. But if it did become involved, it would mean a declaration of war.

The retaliation against President Saleh's compound could expand into further clashes in the capital. It is also being seen as a sign that the end is near for him.

The US White House condemned the recent bloodshed, including the attack on the presidential palace.

"Violence cannot resolve the issues that confront Yemen, and today's events cannot be a justification for a new round of fighting," spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

More than 350 people have been killed since the uprising started in January, but at least 135 of them have died in the past 10 days.

'Scratches'

There has been heavy fighting in the northern Sanaa district of Hassaba since last week between Mr Saleh's forces and tribesman loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, the head of the powerful Hashid tribal confederation.

Explosions were heard in the south of the capital for the first time.

Witnesses said the army had shelled the home of his brother Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, a leader of the opposition Islah party, in the Hadda district.

Later, at least two shells hit a mosque in the presidential palace compound.

Mr Saleh was injured and received treatment in a military hospital.

Smoke rises from Sanaa (2 June 2011) A truce agreed last week collapsed after four days, with each side blaming the other

State TV later broadcast an audio message in which he urged the military to fight Sheikh Ahmar's tribal group.

"I salute our armed forces and the security forces for standing up firmly to confront this challenge by an outlaw gang that has nothing to do with the so-called youth revolution," he said.

"Seven officers were martyred. We will follow these culprits sooner or later in co-operation with all security services."

Correspondents say Mr Saleh spoke with a laboured voice, at times breathing heavily.

Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar, speaker of parliament Yahya al-Rai and several other officials were also wounded.

Al-Arabiya TV reported that Mr Rai was in a critical condition.

Ruling party spokesman Tariq al-Shami told AFP news agency the tribesmen were to blame.

Yemen's Ahmar family

  • Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar is the overall leader of the Hashid tribal confederation, one of the two main tribal groupings in Yemen
  • His father Abdullah Bin Hussein al-Ahmar - who died in 2007 - founded the Islamist Islah opposition party
  • Sheikh Sadeq's brother Hamid al-Ahmar is a prominent businessman and leading member of Islah. He has repeatedly called for Mr Saleh's resignation
  • Another brother, Sheikh Hussein Bin Abdullah al-Ahmar, resigned from President Saleh's Governing People's Council on 28 February over the shootings of protesters

"The Ahmar [tribe] have crossed all the red lines," he added.

However, the office of Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar denied responsibility for the attack on the palace. This contradicted an earlier claim made by Sheikh Ahmar's spokesman that the attack had been retaliatory.

Earlier, troops set fire to the headquarters of Suhail TV, while state TV showed pictures of the burning offices of national airline Yemenia, blaming it on the tribesmen.

Western and regional powers have been urging Mr Saleh to sign a Gulf Co-operation Council-brokered deal that would see him hand over to his deputy in return for an amnesty from prosecution.

He has agreed to sign on several occasions, but then backed out.

The US has sent an envoy to the Gulf to discuss ways of stopping the violence.

Sanaa map

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