Clashes in Yemen capital
Sanaa - Fighting broke out in the Yemeni capital on Saturday as embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed to hit back after he was wounded in shelling of his compound.
Saleh, who has faced nationwide protests against his rule for the past four months, was "lightly wounded in the back of his head," a leader of the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) party told AFP.
His regime blamed the attack on powerful dissident tribesman Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, whose fighters have been battling government forces in the Yemeni capital since a truce crumbled on Tuesday.
"The Ahmar (tribe) have crossed all red lines," GPC spokesperson Tariq al-Shami said.
In an audio statement broadcast on state television late on Friday, Saleh who was being treated at the defence ministry hospital in Sanaa said, "I am well, in good health," and added that the bombardment had killed seven people.
Saleh, in power in Sanaa since 1978, hit out at "the sons of Al-Ahmar," a reference to Sheikh Sadiq and his brothers, and called on "the security forces to purge state institutions of these gangs."
On Saturday, sporadic shelling and rocket fire rattled the Al-Hasaba district of northern Sanaa where Sheikh Sadiq has his base, witnesses said, adding residents were fleeing amid water and electricity cuts.
Among those killed in Friday's attack on the presidential palace were three officers of Saleh's elite Republican Guard.
Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar also suffered burns to his face, while a source close to the presidency said deputy premier General Rashad al-Alimi was "critically wounded."
Washington condemned the violence.
"The United States condemns in the strongest terms the senseless acts of violence today in Yemen, including the attack against the presidential palace compound in Sanaa as well as other attacks in Sanaa and throughout the country," the White House said.
"We call on all sides to cease hostilities immediately and to pursue an orderly and peaceful process of transferring political power as called for in the GCC-brokered agreement," it said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
After Saleh last month refused to sign a GGC plan for him to step down in return for immunity, opposition tribesmen seized public buildings in Sanaa, sparking clashes with troops loyal to the president.
In the wake of the latest escalation, the European Union activated a mechanism to evacuate its citizens, foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said. Germany on Saturday ordered the closure of its embassy and rapid repatriation of its staff.