Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Yemen City Of Taiz Falls To Rebels As President Battles For Life

More than 400 tribal gunmen have taken over Yemen's most populated city of Taiz, eyewitnesses there say.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh suffered burns on 40% of his body and a collapsed lung, U.S. government officials briefed on the matter said, as the fate of the embattled leader -- and whether he will return to the conflict in Yemen -- remains uncertain.

Saleh was injured Friday from an attack at his presidential compound and is seeking treatment in Saudi Arabia. An Arab diplomatic source with knowledge of Saleh's condition says one shrapnel wound is 7 centimeters (2.75 inches) deep.

Fighting between government and tribal forces has raged for weeks in Yemen, where thousands of anti-government protesters have been pressuring Saleh to give up power since January.

The fiercest clashes since anti-government protests started in the southern city of Taiz continued early Tuesday, with battles between anti-regime gunmen and government security forces, witnesses said.

One of the U.S. government officials said Monday he can't imagine the Saudis letting him go back. He said it is critical that the Saudis press Saleh to accept a Gulf Cooperation Council deal offering him immunity in exchange for stepping down.

However, Saudi state-run Ekhbariya television reported Monday that Saleh had undergone two operations in Saudi Arabia and would return to Yemen after he recovers.

Christopher Boucek, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said he doubts Saleh will go back.

"The regime still maintains that he will return, and they say he's going to return within days, if not weeks," Boucek said. "But there's really no option I see for how he can go back and still be president."