Yemen president, PM hurt in palace shelling
Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded yesterday along with his premier and other officials as shells struck a mosque in the presidential palace compound, a security official told AFP.
The mosque attack came as fighting that has killed scores of people in north Sanaa spread to the south of the capital and the poverty-stricken Arabian Peninsula country teetered towards civil war.
Four officers of the elite Republican Guard were killed when two shells crashed into the mosque, the official said.
Saleh himself "was lightly wounded in the attack" while the extent of Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar's injuries were not immediately clear.
In an assurance to the Yemeni public, state television later said that the president was "well."
The attack was blamed by the authorities on dissident tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar.
"The Ahmar (tribe) have crossed all red lines," said Tareq al-Shami, spokesman for the ruling General People's Congress.
A Yemeni opposition TV station, Suhail, reported earlier that Saleh had died in shelling that hit the palace mosque.
Yemen has tipped swiftly toward civil war this week, with forces of the Hashed tribal confederation battling troops still loyal to Saleh in the capital and elsewhere.
More than 370 people have been killed, at least 155 of them in the last 10 days, since a popular uprising against Saleh's nearly 33 years in power began in January.
Before the attack on the palace, protesters paraded the coffins of 50 people it said were killed by Saleh's forces.
Heavy fighting also spread for the first time to the southern part of Sanaa, an area held by forces loyal to Saleh and possibly marking a turning point in the conflict.
Explosions were heard in the southern city of Taiz, where the United Nations has said it is investigating reports that 50 people have been killed since Sunday.
Two policemen were killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack, medical officials said, after security forces fired warning shot earlier at protesters gathering for Friday prayers.
Worries are growing that Yemen, home to a branch of al-Qaeda known as AQAP and next to the world's biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia, could implode and become a failed state that poses a risk to global oil supplies and security.
In Sanaa, thousands have fled for safety as Saleh's security forces battled members of the powerful Hashed tribal alliance led by Sadeq al-Ahmar in the bloodiest fighting since pro-democracy unrest erupted. One of the homes of a brother of Ahmar was shelled in fighting yesterday, witnesses said.
The bloodshed has eclipsed a mostly peaceful pro-democracy movement inspired by successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.
Yemen is engulfed in multiple conflicts, with street battles between tribal groups and Saleh's forces in Sanaa, popular unrest across the country and fighting against AQAP and other Islamist militants who seized the coastal city of Zinjibar.
The capital is split, with Saleh loyalists holding the south against tribesmen and renegade military units in the north.