Dozens in Yemen Hurt as Saleh Supporters Celebrate Leader

Dozens of Yemenis were injured after supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh fired bullets into the air in celebration after the army reported that the president was returning to the country soon.

Saleh is recuperating in Saudi Arabia after surgery for injuries sustained during a June 3 bombing of a mosque in his presidential compound in Sana’a, the capital. Mohammed al-Kamal, a doctor, said 70 wounded people were admitted to al-Thawrah public hospital in Sana’a last night. Bushra al-Maktari, a protest activist, said by telephone that another 12 people were wounded by celebratory gunfire in the southern city of Taiz.

The Defense Ministry said today that Saleh was in “stable condition.” Two U.S. officials in Washington said on June 7 that the Yemeni leader has bad burns on his face and 40 percent of his body. Sultan al-Burkani, a senior member of Yemen’s ruling party, denied those reports, the Defense Ministry said on its website.

Yemen’s opposition is urging Vice President Abduraboo Mansur Hadi to formally declare he has assumed Saleh’s duties. Saleh’s supporters say he is still head of state and will return soon in that capacity.

After months of anti-government protests, fighting in the Arabian Peninsula country escalated when Saleh refused to sign a Gulf Cooperation Council plan calling for him to step down within 30 days and turn leadership over to Hadi in exchange for immunity from prosecution. It was the third time GCC-led talks had failed.

The ministry said Saleh “has overcome health problems after the success of surgery to remove shrapnel embedded in his body.”

It said he will return to Yemen after “a period of recuperation and treatment for simple burns.”

Soldiers today killed two armed protesters and injured two others in a market in the southern Taiz city, Aziz Mahmud, a witness, said by telephone.