Fighting turns Yemen town into hell

Conflicting reports on Saleh health

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, 69, wounded on Friday when rockets hit his palace, is having treatment in the Saudi capital Riyadh but there were conflicting reports about his condition — ranging from fairly minor, to life-threatening 40-per cent burns.

A truce between his forces and tribesmen who back pro-democracy protesters was holding in Sanaa. Western and Arab powers have been working to persuade Saleh to stay away and allow a long-negotiated transition of power to begin.

Saleh has left a country in crisis, with Yemeni civilians bearing the brunt of fighting. Medical staff are having trouble reaching the wounded, and electricity and water are scarce, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
Some 20 bodies have been retrieved in and around Sanaa since Saturday by ICRC and

Yemen Red Crescent teams, including seven on Tuesday in al-Hassaba, north of the capital, the ICRC said.

“Because of the fighting, it has often been difficult for medical personnel to reach certain parts of Sanaa,” said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen.
Officials and residents described dire scenes in the southern Abyan province where the army and Islamist militants have fought for days, causing thousands of residents to flee.

Gunfire and blood

“There is a cat-and-mouse game going on in the streets now between the army and armed men. I can’t tell who’s who among them any more,” said resident Khaled Abboud by telephone. “There is a smell of gunfire and blood in the air. I only stayed to protect my home, but now I want to get out of this hell.”

The fighting has reduced Zinjibar, once home to more than 50,000 people, to a ghost town without power.

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