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."

iReport: Are you there? Share your photos and videos from the scene, but please stay safe

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

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

    Saleh yesterday,Saleh today, Saleh tomorrow Long live Saleh Allah save Saleh No Saleh No Yemen

    June 3, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Ortsbo.com

      if you let cnn know about this they can find out whats going on on the streets there from the locals >

      June 3, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Your brilliant solution

      That would actually be a good thing.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Looks like that Arab Spring is during into Arab Summer. Too bad the summer of recovery wasn't this intense.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. whoa

    how in the world did this tribe get so close to the palace with MISSILES. something is wrong with this picture, very wrong. i agree with people trying to oust the dictators and all, but this one is definitely not making any sense at all.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. CSnSC

    @Jim, exactly

    June 3, 2011 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Name*Mohamed Mohamed

    Saleh the Dictator wants to turn the peaceful demonstration into a conflict, this guy have ruined the country.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Your Eengleesh and mine

      He have? Really?

      June 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Anthony's Case Posts

    She’s not smart, that’s why she got caught. Casey Anthony thought the world would be as gulable as her family was and would believe any little lie that she tried to spin. It didn’t work that’s why she is on trial for murdering her own child. Compulsive liars create their own realty and can function quite well within that realty and for a time can convincingly make other’s believe that what they say is in fact the truth, throw in being a narcisitic sociopath and you have a recipe for doom. She believes that in the end everyone will believe her, she’ll fry because that’s what she deserves.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • whoa

      even though i believe she is guilty of the crime, i would like to see what evidence they bring out against her. i would rather make a verdict after i have seen all the evidence.

      June 3, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Close some tabs

      Wrong article fool.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat2u

      Hey folks. The troll aka Anthony Case Posts, has posted on almost every article availabe. IT doesn't touch on any of the topics, just spouts off about Casey Anothony. This must be a lonely little creature that can't get anyone to talk to it.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    if that doesn't send him the message, then maby he needs to become a martyr. but who would really care.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neurotoxin

      A martyr for what class? Crooked politicians like Boris Yeltsin? The kids will never buy it....

      June 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tiffany

    Good. Too bad he didn't die

    June 3, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pliny

    When this dictator finally get's his head blown off, Yemen will fall to the terrorists. And then they'll setup shop and turn Yemen into another Afghanistan.

    Hopefully, by then, we will have learn our lesson, and just nuke the entire cesspool of a country into oblivion.

    June 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      pliny...stop accepting and believing what our government tells us. yemen is not going to fall into the hands of terrorists....it is going to fall into the hands of its people and corporations like Exxon and Shell don't like that....because they lose control of the oil and flow of money.

      it's time for the us to stop manipulating the middle east for big oil.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Max

      Your so stupid, Nuke 23 million people?

      June 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neurotoxin

      "Falling to the terrorists" and "turning into another Afghanistan" are not interchangeable. The Taliban and Al Qaeda make much better bandits blowing themselves up in the desert than governments. These countries aren't like the US, they don't have the infrastructure and communications, and people's primary loyalty is to their tribes, not a country or a religion. Their Federal governments don't control much more than their capital cities, leaving organizations like Al Qaeda with the freedom to roam around in remote parts where tribal leaders are sympathetic or bribed. But, as we've proven in recent weeks, the US has the capacity to take these idiots out covertly with little impact on the country overall, whereas full-scale invasions and occupations only give them supporters. Saleh is unlikely to be replaced by Islamists, but even if he were, it would have very little effect on the state of things. In countries like Egypt or Iran with booming industries and infrastructure this is a threat, not hell-resembling deserts like Yemen.

      June 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. don jones

    Innocent until proven guilty no matter how many lies she has told our system of justice must prove a defendant guiilty beyond a shadow of doubt.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sk8104s8tan

    BREAKING: president saleh died in hospital from head wound. opposition groups stormed the hospital, have taken the body and are parading through the streets of sanaa.

    June 3, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • whoa

      say what?

      June 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tell it like it really is

      The only thing that's breaking is your wind.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Go back to your dark hole you arrogant dark lord worshipping fool!

      June 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. steve

    The US and the White House are wasting their breath....shut up and stay out of what's going on in the middle east....especially the likes of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who doesn't have a clue.

    In other words, go home, Yankee go home.....it's time to allow the middle east to sort things out for themselves!

    June 3, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cesar


    June 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cesar

    Nuke Islam to tiny particles. Then hit the tiny particles with a flame thrower, and then urinate on the fire to put it out.

    June 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Neurotoxin

    Am I the only one that feels like the US Department of State looks like a Middle School teacher yelling "I'll give you all a week of detention!" while her students engage in an armed gang shootout in the middle of class? I'm 100% of the opinion that we need to stay out of Yemen and let the country's power structures settle their own differences, but these calls for calm and restraint while they shell the Presidential compound just make all Americans look stupid. Nut up or shut up, Hillary, even your husband clearly wasn't satisfied with your mouth.

    June 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bobcat2u

    These people having been fighting amongst themselves all through the centuries. Why would anyone think that we would make any difference? Let's take Iraq and Afghanistan for example. Our presence there has kind of stifled the tribal warfare that are used to. If and when we do finally pull our troops out, it will go back to the way it has been for hundreds, if not thousands of years. This is obviously what they like, so how about we give their natural way of life back to them. If they want to live in the stone age, so be it. After all, who are we to push the 21st century on them?

    June 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • whoa

      why would we make a difference, we aren't even involved to directly. they are fighting for their freedom and getting massacred by their own government. your just going to sit back in your chair and say its not going to make a difference? its like we never made a difference during the Revolutionary or Civil War at all than

      June 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
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