Clashes in Yemen capital after president wounded
Fresh fighting gripped Sanaa on Saturday as Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed to hit back after he was wounded in shelling of his compound, sparking a deadly tit-for-tat.
His premier, who suffered facial burns, and four other senior officials also wounded were transferred to neighbouring Saudi Arabia for treatment, state news agency Saba said.
But Saleh, who has faced four months of protests against his rule, was "stable" in a Sanaa hospital, a medic told AFP a day after the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) said he was "lightly wounded in the back of the head."
His regime has blamed the attack on powerful dissident tribesman Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, whose fighters have battled government forces in Sanaa since a truce crumbled on Tuesday.
In an audio statement on state television late Friday, Saleh said: "I am well, in good health," and added the bombardment had killed seven people.
Saleh, in power in Sanaa since 1978, hit out at "the sons of Al-Ahmar," a reference to Sheikh Sadiq and his brothers, and urged "the security forces to purge state institutions of these gangs."
On Saturday, sporadic shelling and rocket fire rattled the Al-Hassaba district of northern Sanaa where Sheikh Sadiq has his base, witnesses said, adding that residents were fleeing amid water and electricity cuts.
Among those killed in Friday's attack on the presidential palace were three officers of the elite Republican Guard.
Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar and three other senior Yemeni officials -- consultative council head Abdulaziz Abdulghani, parliament chief Yahya al-Raie, and deputy prime minister Sadiq Amin Aburas -- were all transferred to Saudi Arabia, the medic said.
Saba said deputy premier General Rashad al-Alimi, who was "critically wounded" according to a source close to the presidency, was also taken to the kingdom.
Saleh's condition was "of no cause for concern," the medic told AFP, adding that the other officials required treatment in oil-rich Saudi Arabia where hospitals are better equipped than in impoverished Yemen.
Sanaa's Governor Noman Duweik, who lost a leg and a hand in the attack, was in serious condition in hospital in Sanaa, said the official.
Washington condemned the violence, including the attack on Saleh's palace, and called for him to transfer power.
"We call on all sides to cease hostilities immediately and to pursue an orderly and peaceful process of transferring political power as called for in the GCC-brokered agreement," said the White House, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Russia, meanwhile, expressed its concern at the "terrible civil war" in Yemen and urged the leadership to accept the GCC-sponsored deal.
Yemen's parliamentary opposition on Saturday called for an "immediate" ceasefire in the deeply tribal country.
The Common Forum alliance condemned what it said was the "the dangerous twist which the clashes have taken in targeting the homes of citizens, the presidential palace, and vital installations."
The opposition alliance urged "quick action" from the international community "to save Yemen and its people from falling into (civil) war," in a statement.
After Saleh last month refused to sign a GGC plan for him to step down in return for immunity, opposition tribesmen seized public buildings in Sanaa, sparking clashes with troops loyal to the president.
Amid the latest escalation, the European Union activated a mechanism to evacuate its citizens, and Germany on Saturday ordered the closure of its embassy and repatriation of its staff.
Friday's mosque attack came as fighting that has killed scores of people in north Sanaa spread to the capital's south.
Later that day, Yemeni troops shelled the home of Sheikh Hamid, a brother of Sheikh Sadiq, in apparent retaliation.
Shelling in Hada neighbourhood also targeted the homes of two other Ahmar brothers, Hemyar and Mizhij, and that of dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar.
The attack on Sheikh Hamid's home killed 10 people and wounded 35, his office said.
Sheikh Hamid has accused Saleh of orchestrating the mosque attack as an "excuse to shell and destroy my home and the homes of my brothers, Hemyar and Mizhij, and that of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in an attempt to drag Yemen into civil war."
More than 70 people have now been confirmed killed in the fighting in Sanaa since a fragile four-day truce collapsed between Ahmar's tribesmen and troops loyal to Saleh.
In Taez, a security official reported clashes on Saturday a day after four soldiers and two protesters were killed.
Nationwide, more than 200 demonstrators have been killed since the protests erupted, according to an AFP tally based on reports from medics and rights activists.
© 2011 AFP