June 4 (Bloomberg) -- Fighters from Yemen’s most influential tribal group said a truce with government forces was mediated late yesterday by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, amid confusion over the condition and whereabouts of President Ali Abdullah Saleh after a deadly attack on his compound.
The BBC cited unidentified people close to Saleh as saying he has shrapnel under his heart that punctured a lung, and that a decision had yet to be made on surgery. He is being treated in Saudi Arabia, the New York Times reported. Ministers had said Saleh sustained only facial scratches during the rocket attack, after which state television aired a phone call from him late yesterday in which he said he was “OK” and blamed the family of tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar for the violence.
Al-Ahmar, who leads the Hashid tribal confederation, said his side is committed to the Saudi-brokered truce, though there had been breaches by Saleh’s forces, according to the opposition al-Sahwa website. The one-week cease-fire began at 10 p.m. local time, Fawzi al-Jaradi, a spokesman for al-Ahmar’s group, said by telephone today.
Scores of people have died since the conflict between Saleh loyalists and Sadiq al-Ahmar’s men broke out last month. The violence followed Saleh’s refusal to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council-sponsored accord requiring him to step down within 30 days in an effort to quell anti-government protests by Yemenis that began early this year amid uprisings elsewhere in the region. Saleh, born in the mid-1940s, has held power since 1978.
The Yemeni leader said soldiers and officers were among those killed. Al Arabiya television today cited an unidentified presidential official as saying the toll had risen to 11 dead and 124 injured. The attack was followed by the bombardment of the house of opposition lawmaker Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, Sadiq’s brother, in which 19 people were killed and 40 wounded, Hamid’s office said in an e-mailed statement today. Hamid al-Ahmar was unharmed and is in a safe location, his office said.
Saleh had “scratches on his face” and “there’s nothing affecting his health,” Deputy Information Minister Abdu al- Jundi said late yesterday in a news conference in the capital, Sana’a, aired by state television. Prime Minister Ali Mujawar, two of his deputies and Parliament Speaker Yahya al-Raiee were injured in the palace attack and were taken to Saudi Arabia for treatment, the state’s Saba news agency said.
Industry and Trade Minister Hisham Sharaf said by phone that he saw Saleh in Sana’a today, and denied media reports that Saleh’s facial injuries were burns.
“The president is in good health -- his mind is working, he is moving and he can give orders,” said Sharaf in a telephone interview. The president is “more determined than ever that he will not leave power until he knows that Yemen is safe and sound and that the only armed forces on the ground are the legitimate military forces. He will not leave without a clear mechanism for such a transition and without ensuring that there are no sources of danger that could take over power.”
The presidential compound was hit amid battles in the capital between the security forces and gunmen loyal to al- Ahmar.
Saleh’s party called the attack an “assassination attempt.” Al-Ahmar’s office denied any role, saying in an e- mailed statement that Saleh had orchestrated the attack himself to justify the regime’s crimes.
Hamid al-Ahmar, a member of the Islamic Islah party, called for an uprising against Saleh in 2006. The houses of two other al-Ahmar brothers were also attacked yesterday as well as the residence of defected General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who broke with the military in March and supports the GCC initiative.
Civil War Fears
The assaults that followed the targeting of the palace were “mad efforts by which some are trying to drag the country into fighting and civil war, driving away the peaceful revolution from its peaceful track,” a group of military defectors who back the anti-Saleh protests said today in an e-mailed statement.
Amid the surge of violence, the commander of a military base in the southern city of Taiz, Jubran al-Hashidi, defected and announced support for the protest movement, the News Yemen website said today. His action came after he was besieged in his office and urged to defect by soldiers who had refused to fire on demonstrators in Taiz, according to the website.
Troops loyal to Saleh later withdrew from Taiz, and looting ensued. The prosecutor’s office in northern Taiz was among the places hit by looters, Fuad Ali, a witness, said by phone.
The Republican Guards, led by one of Saleh’s sons, along with police and armed men in plain clothes, fired yesterday on demonstrators in Taiz, Bushra al-Maktari, a protest organizer, said by telephone. More than 15,000 people marched in the city to condemn a government attack on anti-Saleh demonstrators that began May 29 and lasted until the early hours of May 30, she said. At least 21 people were killed in that crackdown.
--With assistance from Zahra Hankir in Dubai and Zaid Sabah Abd Alhamid in Washington. Editors: Heather Langan, Ann Hughey, Dick Schumacher
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