Presidential Palace in Yemen Is Shelled
Source:New York Times, 03/06/2011
By NASSER ARRABYEE and J. DAVID GOODMAN
SANA, Yemen — Heavy fighting in Yemen’s capital reached the doorstep of President Ali Abdullah Saleh for the first time on Friday as explosions from artillery fire shook the presidential palace.
The attack by opposition fighters came during a large rally of Mr. Saleh’s supporters near the palace and set off intense fighting in the south of Sana, the capital, which had largely been spared during nearly two weeks of pitched street fighting around the capital.
It was unclear whether Mr. Saleh was in the palace at the time of the attack. A government spokesperson, Mohammed al-Basha, said via Twitter that the president had not been killed, but that senior government officials were injured. Mr. Basha said Mr. Saleh had not been killed, but he did not say if the president was among those injured.
Mr. Basha said that Mr. Saleh would soon hold a news conference.
It was unclear which opposition figures were involved in the shelling, but the government immediately attacked with artillery fire the home of Hamid al-Ahmar, one of Mr. Saleh’s main tribal rivals and an opposition leader; his home sits roughly a mile south of the presidential palace.
Tribesmen loyal to the Ahmar family have been battling government in the streets on Sana for more than 10 days.
Smoke from the explosions rose over the capital and was visible from the main antigovernment protest, about three miles north. At the rival government rally, in Sabeen Square in front of the palace, frightened government supporters could be seen fleeing the violence, state-run television images showed.
Until Friday, most of the fighting in Sana had been centered in the northern Hasaba neighborhood and was focused on the home of another Ahmar brother, Sadiq. Residents in the south nervously watched the escalating violence from their rooftops as machine guns crackled continually.
Nasser Arrabyee reported from Sana and J. David Goodman reported from New York.