Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been lightly wounded after opposition tribesmen on Friday slammed rockets at the Presidential palace, marking a sharp escalation in violence that is now threatening to drag the country into a full blown civil war.
Yemeni officials said six security guards were killed and seven top officials injured during the strike. The wounded include the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the parliament speaker and the governor of Sana’a. Officials said that the governor of Sana’a Nooman Dweid and Deputy Prime Minister has been badly injured. President’s security adviser Rashad al-Alimi, was unconscious after a volley of three rockets, apparently fired by tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar slammed into a mosque inside the presidential compound. The al-Ahmar family, which leads the Hashid tribe confederation, has emerged as Mr. Saleh’s most potent rival in recent weeks.
The attack on the presidential palace, the first since Yemen’s pro-democracy revolt flared, was launched apparently in retaliation to a strike on the homes of two tribal leaders and a military General, who had earlier defected from Mr. Saleh’s camp. As fighting escalated on Friday morning, the homes of brothers of the al-Ahmar family, Hameed and Himyar were destroyed. The residence of the pro-opposition, Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, was also flattened on account of the heavy shelling.
Fighting in Sana'a had spiraled last week when government troops fired at the Sheikh al-Ahmar’s residence. The capital’s Hassaba area, home to governmental ministries and official buildings has emerged as the epicenter of combat. Most of the area is, apparently, now under the control of the Hashid tribesmen. But on Friday, government forces brought additional areas, including the southern Hadda district into the firing line. The recent surge in fighting has already killed more than 160 people.
Mr. Saleh, according to his staff, has suffered light neck injuries , which were being treated inside the presidential palace. He is due to make a television appearance shortly, mainly to quash rumours about his death which began to circulate in Sana'a soon after the attack.
Yemeni state television said that the President was “in good health”. It played national songs and aired footage of previous years which showed Mr. Saleh interacting with world leaders and touring Yemeni cities.