Yemen s Saleh Blames Tribal Rival for Rocket Attack That Left Him Wounded

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President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen blamed a powerful tribal family for the rocket attack on the mosque in his palace compound yesterday in which he and other government leaders were wounded and seven people were killed.

I am OK, Saleh said in a telephone call broadcast by state television, in which he placed responsibility for the attack on the family of Sadiq al-Ahmar, leader of the Hashid tribal confederation and an opponent of the president.

The al-Ahmar family is a gang that has nothing to do with the youth revolution, he said. They are outlaws seeking a coup movement, he said.

Seven people -- described as soldiers and officers -- were killed in the attack during prayers, he said. The wounded included Parliament Speaker Yahya al-Raiee, Prime Minister Ali Mujawar and Shoura Council Speaker Abdulaziz Abdulghani, he said.

Deputy Information Minister Abdu al-Jundi said Saleh suffered scratches on his face.

There s nothing affecting his health, al-Jundi said at the news conference in the capital, Sana a, carried by state-run television.

Imam Ali Mohsen al-Matari, who was leading the prayers, survived the attack, state-run Saba news agency reported, after earlier saying he had been killed.

The attack came amid fierce battles in the capital between Saleh s 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 crimes of the regime.

Very Serious Escalation

The attack was a very serious escalation of the conflict, April Longley Alley, senior analyst at the Arabian Peninsula International Crisis Group, said yesterday.

I m not surprised by it. The Yemeni military and security forces have been attacking houses of the al-Ahmars, Alley said by telephone from Abu Dhabi yesterday.

Crude oil fell $2. 28 a barrel, more than 2 percent, to $98. 12 in New York after Al Arabiya television carried a report by the opposition broadcaster Suhail that Saleh had been killed while trying to escape from the presidential palace. Oil settled at $100. 22 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 18 cents.

Minister of Industry and Trade Hisham Sharaf said in a telephone interview that he was in the courtyard of the small mosque inside the presidential compound when the rocket struck. He said that after the attack he saw the president getting into a car that took him to a safe place.

Senseless Acts of Violence

Fighting in Sana a between Saleh s security forces and al- Ahmar supporters continued for the fifth straight day yesterday after the breakdown of a truce mediated by tribal leaders. The government and the tribal group have blamed each other for breaking a cease-fire that briefly halted fighting that had raged for three days last week.

The Obama administration condemned the senseless acts of violence in Yemen, including the attack on the presidential palace. White House press secretary Jay Carney, in a statement, called for all sides to act on a Western-backed agreement, brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, that calls for Saleh to step down and transfer power.

Scores of people have been killed since the conflict between Saleh s loyalists and al-Ahmar s men broke out last week. The violence followed Saleh s refusal to sign the GCC accord, which required him to give up power within 30 days.

One would expect a counter-escalation, Sheila Carapico, a political science professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said in a telephone interview from Cairo. That s why this is dangerous. It will almost certainly provoke the forces that he and his family command to strike back.

Hunt for Perpetrators

In his broadcast, Saleh said the perpetrators of the attack will be hunted down sooner or later.

Elsewhere in Yemen, the Republican Guards, led by one of Saleh s sons, along with police and armed men in plain clothes fired yesterday on protesters 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.

Saleh s government has said that increasing social unrest threatens to strengthen al-Qaeda, a concern also expressed by the U. S. The terrorist group has sought to use Yemen as a base from which to destabilize neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world s largest exporter of crude oil, and for launching attempted attacks on international targets, including two U. S. synagogues last year.

Courtesy: Bloom Berg

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