Yemeni President Saleh hurt by 'shrapnel' in attack

The BBC's Lina Sinjab: "He has shrapnel three inches below the heart"

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has suffered shrapnel wounds and burns in Friday's attack on his Sanaa compound.

Sources have told the BBC that Mr Saleh had a piece of shrapnel below his heart and second-degree chest and face burns. This has not been officially confirmed.

Reports that he had left for Saudi Arabia have been denied. But unnamed Saudi officials suggest he plans to go there for medical treatment.

Mr Saleh has promised to leave power, but failed to sign a deal to do so.

The president broadcast an audio message on Friday, but he has not appeared in public.

In the broadcast, he blamed the attack on an "outlaw gang" of his tribal foes - an accusation denied by Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, the head of the Hashid tribal federation, whose fighters have been clashing with security forces.

Analysis

The al-Ahmar tribe is now reported to have expanded its control in Hadda, close to the presidential compound.

Meanwhile, government security forces are blocking most of the roads in the city. The Saudi-brokered truce has relieved people here but there is still concern about the possibility it could be broken as on recent occasions. There are fears that President Saleh's son and nephews - who hold military and security power - could retaliate, widening the clashes in the country.

Abdulghani al-Iryani, a political analyst and expert in Yemeni affairs, told the BBC the truce is a sign the al-Ahmar tribe has nothing to do with the attack and that it was tailored by people around Mr Saleh. Others say if it was a rocket attack, state TV should have shown pictures of the mosque and the aftermath.

Tribal officials later said that 10 people had been killed and 35 others injured overnight when government troops shelled the Hassaba area, where Sheikh Ahmar's brother Hamid is based. Some reports now say that Sheikh Hamid himself was injured.

But the BBC's Lina Sinjab in Sanaa says the city has been calm throughout Saturday.

Reports say a week-long ceasefire has been brokered in the country by Saudi Arabia.

The Ahmar family has been financing the opposition and helping sustain protesters, who have been demanding Mr Saleh's resignation since January despite a crackdown that has left at least 350 people dead.

Western and regional powers have been urging Mr Saleh to sign a Gulf Co-operation Council-brokered deal that would see him hand over power to his deputy in return for an amnesty from prosecution.

He has agreed to sign on several occasions, but then backed out.

More than 160 people have been killed in the fighting that began on 23 May and has brought Yemen to the brink of civil war.

Mr Saleh and several senior officials were praying at the al-Nahdayn mosque inside the presidential compound in the south of Sanaa on Friday afternoon at the time of the attack.

The mosque was originally thought to have been hit by rockets, but there are now suggestions someone may have planted a bomb there.

An injured boy in Sanaa hospital. Photo: 4 June 2011 A number of people - including civilians - were injured in the overnight fighting

Seven presidential guards were killed, some apparently as they jumped on Mr Saleh to protect him.

Yemen's Minister of International Co-operation, Hisham Sharaf, told the BBC that the president had received light injuries to his head.

But later reports suggested his injuries might have been more severe.

Sources close to the president have told the BBC that Mr Saleh has a piece of shrapnel almost 7.6cm (3in) long under his heart and that it has punctured one of his lungs.

Yemeni officials are now bringing Saudi medical experts to treat the president's injuries and it is understood that he is to be operated on soon, the sources added.

Yemen's Ahmar family

  • Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar is the overall leader of the Hashid tribal confederation, one of the two main tribal groupings in Yemen
  • His father Abdullah Bin Hussein al-Ahmar - who died in 2007 - founded the Islamist Islah opposition party
  • Sheikh Sadeq's brother Hamid al-Ahmar is a prominent businessman and leading member of Islah. He has repeatedly called for Mr Saleh's resignation
  • Another brother, Sheikh Hussein Bin Abdullah al-Ahmar, resigned from President Saleh's Governing People's Council on 28 February over the shootings of protesters

Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Mr Saleh has also gone to Saudi Arabia for treatment, or possibly even for good. But Deputy Information Minister Abduh al-Janadi and sources in the president's office insist the reports are untrue.

Mr Saleh was taken to a military hospital and not discharged until late on Friday. By Saturday morning, state television was still airing only his audio message, accompanied by an old photograph.

Mr Sharaf also said the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Yahya al-Rai, was seriously wounded, while several other senior officials were also hurt, including Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar, the speaker of the upper house, Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani, and Mr Saleh's security adviser.

The Saba news agency said Mr Mujawar, Mr Rai, Mr Abdul Ghani, Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi and the security adviser, who was in a serious condition, were later flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment.

Sanaa map

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