Yemen: President Saleh defiant after injury

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has broadcast a brief audio message, hours after being injured in an attack on his compound in the capital Sanaa.

Mr Saleh said he was well and urged the army to confront his tribal opponents, who he blamed for the attack.

Seven people were killed. The prime minister and the speaker of parliament were among several injured.

The attack came amid huge demonstrations and continuing fighting between government and armed tribes.

Earlier, troops shelled the home of the brother of tribal leader Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, the head of the powerful Hashid tribal confederation, who has joined the opposition.

Sheikh Ahmar's office denied responsibility for the palace attack.

Meanwhile, the European Union set in motion a procedure to evacuate its citizens, foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.Along with France and the United States, it called for an immediate ceasefire.
'Outlaw gang'

Mr Saleh received treatment in a military hospital, after at least two shells hit a mosque in the presidential compound.

The extent of his injuries is unclear, although various reports say he received scratches, or was hit by shrapnel in the head or neck.

Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar, speaker of parliament Yahya al-Rai and several other officials were also wounded.

Al-Arabiya TV reported that Mr Rai was in a critical condition.

Officials said Mr Saleh would soon appear in public, but it was not until more than six hours later that state TV broadcast his recorded audio message.

He urged the military to fight Sheikh Ahmar's tribal group."I salute our armed forces and the security forces for standing up firmly to confront this challenge by an outlaw gang that has nothing to do with the so-called youth revolution," he said.

"Seven officers were martyred. We will follow these culprits sooner or later in co-operation with all security services."

Correspondents say Mr Saleh spoke with a laboured voice, at times breathing heavily.

There has been heavy fighting in the northern Sanaa district of Hassaba since last week between Mr Saleh's forces and tribesman loyal to Sheikh Ahmar.

Explosions were heard in the south of the capital for the first time. Witnesses said the army had shelled the home of Sheikh Ahmar's brother Hamid, a leader of the opposition Islah party, in the Hadda district.

Also on Friday morning, thousands attended a funeral for 50 people killed in earlier violence, and Friday prayers were followed by huge anti-government protests.

In the southern city of Taiz, at least three members of the security forces and two protesters were killed in clashes, officials and doctors said.

It was not clear if the security forces were soldiers or police. One report said they had been killed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

A crackdown on protesters in Taiz on Sunday left more than 50 demonstrators dead.

More than 350 people have been killed since the uprising started in January, but at least 135 of them have died in the past 10 days.

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

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

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