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Yemeni president's face was 'quite charred' after attack on presidential palace

Details about the injuries sustained by Ali Abdullah Saleh in last week’s attack have begun to emerge as the government rejected attempts by the opposition to discuss a peaceful transition.

Ali Abdullah Saleh in April.
Ali Abdullah Saleh in April.
Image: Muhammed Muheisen/AP/Press Association Images

DETAILS ON THE condition of Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh have emerged with reports that he was much more gravely injured than officials had originally said.

Saleh and other members of his government were injured in a shell attack on his presidential compound in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Friday.

On Sunday, it emerged that Saleh and some of his officials had flown to Saudi Arabia to seek medical treatment for injuries they had sustained.

Saleh has refused to step down after nearly 33 years in power despite four months of angry and violent civil unrest across Yemen with thousands of protesters demonstrating against his rule.

The New York Times today reports that Saleh was severely burned in the attack on Friday with burns over 40 per cent of his body. It cited Yemeni officials and Western diplomats as its sources.

Burns are reported to cover some of Saleh’s back, with others on his face, neck and arms. One western official told the paper:

His face was quite charred. The burns are serious; he is not as well as his aides are portraying it.

The paper also reports that the source of the explosion, thought to have been from an external attack, may have come from inside the compound with an accelerant spurring the flames that caused the injuries to Saleh.

The paper adds that of the several officials who flew to Saudi Arabia for treatment, the governor of Sanaa remains in a coma.

One of two deputy prime minister’s has lost a leg while over half a dozen other senior figures incuding the prime minister, the parliament speaker, members of parliament, advisers and soldiers are also being treated.

Elsewhere in Yemen, the government reported that army troops have killed 30 Islamic militants in the troubled southern province of Abyan.

A brief statement said the militants were killed Monday night and Tuesday, but gave no other details.

Military officials and witnesses say warplanes bombed areas in the province known to be under the control of the militants, but it’s not immediately clear whether the airstrikes led to the death of the 30 militants.

Meanwhile, attempts by opposition parties in the troubled Arab state to discuss a political transition from the rule of Saleh have been rebuffed.

Government sources told Al Jazeera that the offer of transition talks was “ridiculous” and that nothing would happen until president Saleh returned to Yemen.

“Saleh is still the president of Yemen,” the source added.

- additional reporting from AP

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Hugh O'Connell

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