June 3rd, 2011
10:10 AM ET

Yemeni prime minister, six top officials hurt in shelling at presidential palace

[Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET] Yemen's president, prime minister and other senior government officials were injured on Friday during the shelling of the presidential compound in Sanaa, a government spokesman said.

This comes as government forces and tribesmen slugged it out in the capital and demonstrators poured onto the streets of the impoverished country to demand that the President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

Saleh sustained a slight injury to the head in an attack on the mosque in the presidential palace, but he is fine, a senior government official told CNN. The president plans to address the media later on Friday.

Government spokesman Tareq al-Shami said Prime Minister Ali Mujawar, the parliament speaker, deputy prime minister, and the Sanaa governor were among seven injured.

"The officials were praying when the shelling hit a mosque in the presidential compound. A number of the injured are in serious condition," Tareq al-Shami, a government spokesman, said.

It was not immediately clear whether Saleh was among the seven Al-Shami mentioned.

Tribal fighters and the regime's forces in Sanaa had been battling with missiles.

The fighters shot missiles at the presidential palace and the government responded by launching missile strikes on a dissident tribal leader's property.

In Taiz, government security forces and gunmen protecting protesters fought street battles.

The security forces began shooting at protesters assembled in the city's Freedom Square, and gunmen supporting the demonstrators burned an armored vehicle belonging to security forces.

Abdullah Afti, a youth activist in Taiz, said four anti-government protesters had been shot during Friday prayers.

The White House called for "calm and restraint" and said the dispute between pro- and anti-government forces "must be solved through negotiations."

"We've seen the reports and are very concerned about violence in Yemen," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Fighting has rippled across Yemen for months between supporters of Saleh and anti-government forces who want him out of office. Discontent has rippled across the country and demonstrations have been common.

But late last month, battling between pro-Saleh forces and tribal elements added a new element to the instability in the country.

The International Crisis Group recently said that on May 23 fighting erupted between military forces controlled by "Saleh's son and nephews and fighters loyal to the preeminent sheikh of the powerful Hashed confederation, Sadiq al-Ahmar."

"The personal animosity and competition between the sons of the late Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar (Sadiq and his nine brothers) and the sons and nephews of Saleh have been a consistent obstacle to negotiations over a peaceful transfer of power. Now, this animus threatens to drag the country toward a full-scale civil war," the group said.

The fighting has focused on these groups but "it could easily escalate, drawing in other tribal factions" and the armed confrontation has already led to the deaths of more than 100 people, the ICG said in a "conflict risk alert" last Friday.

"During the course of a tribal mediation attempt, Saleh's security forces fired on Sadiq's home, killing several prominent sheikhs and injuring dozens of other individuals, including one of the president's closest allies and trusted negotiators, Ghalib Ghamish - head of Political Security, Yemen's intelligence service," the ICG said.

The urban battles leave Sanaa's population "at great risk."

"Hundreds are fleeing, fearing a tribal invasion from the countryside," the ICG said.

While Saleh has been unpopular among many inside his country, he has been a longtime ally of the United States in the war against terror.

The United States has counted on his government to be a bulwark against militants, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but it believes he should transfer power in order to maintain stability in the country.

White House spokesman Vietor said that John Brennan, the president's homeland security adviser, just traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for meetings with government officials to "discuss options to address the deteriorating situation" in Yemen.

The Obama administration has been disappointed in Saleh's "continued refusal" to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative.

The GCC, a coalition of six Gulf Arab nations, came up with a plan for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power that would lead to Saleh's departure.

"It's a very concerning situation. Violence is persistent over the past week or so, ever since President Saleh once again backed away from the table and decided not to sign what we believe was a very valid GCC agreement that really would chart a way forward," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Thursday.

"In that time, our ambassador there has consistently been in touch with the Yemeni government. And again, our efforts are trying to convince President Saleh that this agreement is the best way forward, it ... charts a path, if you will, for Yemen to move out of this period of crisis and to move towards a democratic transition."

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GPS: Yemen on verge of civil war, Al Qaeda strengthens

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Filed under: Yemen
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Cesar

    These tribal fighters are getting too bold.

    June 3, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. fanta

    Tyrants belong in hell or prisons....NEVER in palaces ...... power to the people !

    June 3, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. Anthony's Case Posts

    Either way, if Casey killed or did not kill her Daughter Caylee…her behavior of the time is not well. I would suspect that she is disturbed in some way. We don’t know everything. She may not have even wanted to keep the baby, when she learned of being pregnant. The fact that her parents didn’t even know she was pregnant untill she was at least 7 months pregnant I think says something in it self. Did anyone even talk to her friends that she may have had before she was pregnant or even during pregnancy? Was she afraid…what was going on ? This is to wierd. I think Casey is not well at all!

    June 3, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. JohnCBarclow

    Overthrowing the government in Yemen will fix the world economy. Oh, actually it won't. The people in these countries have a problem, no jobs and rising food prices. Then they try to find the source of the problem, and they think it is their government. So they try to change the government. The problem with that approach is that the problem is bigger than just their government. It is global. It's happening in Europe and North America too. No jobs, rising food prices. Overthrowing the government in these countries is not going to fix that problem. In fact, it may make things worse for them because of the instability it causes. What these people don't seem to realize, though, is that the problems they are having are not local to their countries, but are global. The solution, therefore, whatever it is, is not going to be limited to their countries, but is going to have to be global. An analogy would be that these people are getting bills from creditors, and they are angry at the mailman. Get a new mailman all you want, those bills are still going to come.

    June 3, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Neurotoxin

      These people aren't trying to fix the world economy, Mr. Barclow, they are trying to feed their families. We Americans shriek at double-digit unemployment when we have all kinds of safety nets. Yemen has 30%+ unemployment and jack squat for safety nets, while Saleh and his murderous gang continue to live like kings. This economic situation gets the tyrant lynched – everyone hates him to begin with and now they have nothing to lose by rebelling, game over. Yemen is an oil producer and with more representative government and more egalitarian resource distribution, it would not be facing this economic situation. Saleh has socialized everything into his own pocket a la the USSR government, and the US has endorsed him in exchange for better prices and repression of its opponents. Saleh deserves his lynching, but the situation will only improve for everyday people if they discover representative government, not a new Saleh, whether said new Saleh is with the US or with Iran and Al Qaeda.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Sonic

      First of all JohnCBarclow, in order to understand what is going on in Yemen and the reasons those people could have to do what they do, we would need to be there.

      You give as a fact that they are fighting to resolve the economic challenge their country is currently experiencing, but do not know for sure that's it. Who said that is the only reason they are fighting?

      I cannot say why they are fighting because I have not being there either. If I would speculate (like you did), I would venture to say that they had witnessed the change that is happening in the nearby nations and that has promoted an avalanche effect on the rest of the region where all of them what to see a change on their way of life.

      What change are they looking for? Well that is a question only they can answer. History has shown that once the masses are tired of the abuses of their rulers, they revolve and revolutions happen. That seems to be the case in the middle-east.

      June 3, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. delphin

    saleh needs to go. what power on earth gives a man the right to stay in power over his people for four decades?

    June 3, 2011 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. jim

    @ Anthony's case posts, Enough already, we get it she killed her daughter can you please give it a rest now? As for Yemen, hopefully this isn't a turn towards a theocracy like we got with Iran after the Shah was removed from power.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. Anthony's Case Posts

    Casey has little regard for anyone other than her selfish narcisistic ass. She will stoop to any length in order to continue to blame everyone else for what she did to that beautiful child, including throwing her parents and brother under the bus. I hope from this point on they realize that being there for her is a waste of time and insult to Caylee only because she doesn’t deserve their support. They can always love her but they don’t have to continue to be a part of her insane world

    June 3, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  8. Fox & Friends

    We like propaganda. We are also a tad dumb.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. Raikombe

    Ali Abdulla Saleh, got a deal and stepped on it; he will pay a heavy price in hours and days to come....they told him man, run with your loot... nobody will bother you of the murders!! But poor Ali, he thought he owns Yemen......

    June 3, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. Anthony's Case Posts

    Casey is truly “throwed” in the head. I hope the real truth comes out because she is either truly unstable, insane, or just a pathelogical liar. I believe her folks had something to do with this because nobody took the time to file a missing persons report early on. Why battle with this girl for 30 days about her child. She didn’t care to thank about her child so daddy Anthony should have been on her behind from the jump

    June 3, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. Imglad

    If we hurry we could be the first on the block to set up a Yemin-aid stand.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  12. CSnSC

    Casey A case poster is a troll cutting/pasting same drivel on every board she can find. Ignore her and it will end with anthony verdict.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  13. Cesar

    I love gay men! I want to hook up with as many gay men as I can. I give good BJ's too.
    I'm Cesar and I am flaming gay.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  14. jim

    I'm afraid it's more likely she's one of those brain dead morons who watch reality tv night and night 24/7.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bobby G

    Whew... that was a close call. I thought the cover line was 'Top RAMEN official hurt in shelling.' I needs my noodles!!

    June 3, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
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