Friday, June 3, 2011

Yemen teeters on brink as president is wounded by shellfire

Yemen's veteran president, Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded by shellfire, as his presidential palace came under attack amid the country's brewing civil war.

Mr Saleh, who has held office for nearly 33 years, was praying in a mosque inside the fortified palace compound when it was struck by at least two shells, killing three guards.

The president escaped with light injuries, according to western diplomats and government officials, but the prime minister and speaker of parliament were more seriously hurt. Rashad al-Alami, the deputy prime minister and a leading pro-Western voice in the cabinet, was said to in a critical condition.

The government was quick to blame the powerful Ahmar family, leaders of the Hashed tribal federation, whose militiamen have been engaged in bloody street clashes with regime forces in Sana'a.

Raising fears of a major escalation in the violence of the past fortnight, in which more than 100 people have been killed, the government promised retribution and by nightfall a number of Ahmar family homes had been shelled.

For four months, Mr Saleh has clung to power in the face of protests that have drawn hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets to demand his resignation. (read more)