WORLD: Yemeni leader wounded in clashes

Yemeni leader wounded in clashes

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded when opposition tribesmen determined to topple him hammered his palace with rockets Friday in a major escalation of nearly two weeks of fighting with government forces. Seven guards were killed and eight senior figures from Saleh’s regime were wounded.

The attack was a stunning hit on Saleh’s leadership, striking a mosque in the palace compound where the president and top officials were praying. Saleh was taken to a Defense Ministry hospital and the extent of his injuries was not clear. After the attack, officials promised repeatedly that Saleh would appear to the public soon, but eight hours later state TV aired only an audio message from the president, speaking over an old still photo of him.

Pakistan pushes militants back

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani helicopters and artillery on Friday forced back militants who crossed over from Afghanistan this week and triggered battles that have killed scores of people, an official said. The government demanded that NATO and Afghan troops do more to control insurgents on their side of the long, porous border.

The Pakistani Taliban, the country’s most prominent militant group, claimed responsibility for the incursion in a telephone call to reporters. If true, the group’s presence in Afghanistan’s Kunar province marks a new demonstration of the instability of the border area 10 years after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said between 40 and 50 fighters took part in the raid, much less than the 400 claimed by the government. He said just two of the militants died and that many Pakistani troops were killed.

Libyan rebels seize towns

BENGHAZI, Libya — Libyan rebels forced government troops from three western towns and broke the siege on another, a rebel commander said Friday, and NATO pounded 10 targets across the country.

The heavy bombing and rebel victories, plus the first publicized diplomatic contact between China and the rebel leadership, reflect the continued erosion of Moammar Gadhafi’s power since the eruption in mid-February of uprisings to end his 42-year rule.