Suspicions Yemeni President's Wounds Are Worse Than Reported

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Since January, Yemeni activists have sought to dislodge President Ali Abdullah Saleh from his presidential palace in the capital, Sanaa, through peaceful protests. More recently, the U.S. and Yemen's Gulf neighbors have sought to do so through diplomatic pressure. Today, opposition tribal fighters actually managed to push Saleh out of the palace, at least temporarily, by firing rockets at a mosque in the compound where the president and top officials were praying, killing seven guards, wounding eight senior officials, and leaving Saleh with "scratches on his face," according to Yemen's deputy information minister (another anonymous official tells the AP that Saleh suffered slight neck injuries). Saleh sought treatment at a military hospital, as officials promised that the president would appear before the country shortly.

The thing is, Saleh never appeared, instead issuing an audio message on state television with an old picture slapped on top in which he blamed the attack on an "armed gang of outlaws." The failure to appear on television has a lot of people wondering whether Saleh's more severely injured than his aides are letting on or even whether--as the opposition TV station Suhail reported earlier today--he's actually dead. 

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Since analysts don't have much to go on besides Saleh's voice, the debate is primarily revolving around elocution. The AP, for example, notes that Saleh "spoke in a labored voice" and breathed heavily, while Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell adds that the president sounded as if his mouth had been damaged. Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra, meanwhile, says Saleh sounded "defeated" and "tired" and was "barely able to punctuate his own ideas," perhaps heralding the "beginning of the end" for the embattled leader. Yemeni activist Alaa Jarban is even more skeptical: "We know #Saleh and his voice for 33 years. I'm telling you, it wasn't him on the audio tape! He might be dead or in a severe injury!" In the end, the Yemen Peace Project may have put it best: "#Saleh doesn't sound good in that recorded message. But he doesn't sound dead, either."

Here's Saleh's address:


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