Yemen's President Injured From Attack
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
Violence in Yemen intensified today with the country's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh among the wounded. Anti-government fighters apparently fired rockets at the Presidential Palace in Sanaa. They struck a mosque where the president was attending Friday prayers.
The government initially promised that Saleh would hold a news conference but that was canceled. And state TV aired only an audio message in which the president is reported to have said: If you are well, I am well, and he blamed rival tribesmen for the attack.
For more on the attack, I spoke with to Hakim Almasmari. He's the editor-in-chief for the Yemen Post, and I spoke to him from the capital city.
Mr. HAKIM ALMASMARI (Editor-in-Chief, Yemen Post): We talked to senior officials and the government spokesperson. He told us that President Saleh was injured slightly in the attack that took place earlier in the day.
NORRIS: So do you have any more information about those minor injuries, the nature, where or how he was injured?
Mr. ALMASMARI: Yeah, they said that his injuries were towards the head, injuries towards the head and a little towards the face and the forehead. These injuries are light, according to everyone we talked to. And we've heard from three different government spokespeople: one, the president advisor; one, the government spokesperson; and the other, the ruling party spokesperson. All of them gave me a different story on how Saleh was injured and where is he now at the moment.
NORRIS: Has anyone taken responsibility for firing on that mosque where he was in Friday prayers?
Mr. ALMASMARI: All sides in Yemen until now have denied any backing of this attack. The opposition has rejected that they were behind this attack. The tribes who the government is fighting right now have also denied any links towards these attack. And the Ahmar family, Saleh's worst enemies in Yemen, have also denied any links to the attacks.
The opposition is coming up with a very scary scenario, saying that President Saleh planned this attack by himself to get the mercy of the people and to make them feel that he's oppressed by the people of Yemen and not the oppressor. This is what the opposition is saying and the evidence they have on this are very low.
NORRIS: Sanaa has seen some very violent clashes all throughout the week. Is this the first time that the Presidential Palace has been targeted? And might that escalate the fighting in the capital city?
Mr. ALMASMARI: This is the first time the palace has been attacked in more than 30 years. People did not think that this could take place or happen. According to the government, the attack took place from a rooftop of a nearby building. And this raises questions and eyebrows as where was President Saleh's security? And why were they not aware of such an easy target, and making this attack was very simple and easy?
NORRIS: But now that the president has been targeted, might the government turn around and try to retaliate?
Mr. ALMASMARI: The retaliation of the government started hours ago. Houses of the senior opposition leaders in Yemen, and in specific from the Ahmar family, were taken down to the floor. Massive mansions are now empty pieces of land. So the retaliation started immediately after Saleh was announced injured.
NORRIS: How is it that the opposition forces appear to be so well armed?
Mr. ALMASMARI: Everyone here in Yemen is well armed - the opposition, the government the tribes, even the beggars in the streets. That is why Yemen's revolution has been peaceful over the last four months until recently. People know that everyone is armed, everyone is able to attack and that is why people did not attack, and four months of peaceful protest took place in Yemen, until the last couple of weeks, when clashes between the president and the Ahmar family arose.
NORRIS: Hakim Almasmari, thank you very much for speaking with us.
Mr. ALMASMARI: You're welcome.
NORRIS: Hakim Almasmari is the editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post. He spoke to us from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
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