President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen suffered injuries far more extensive than previously known in an attack on his presidential palace last week, with burns over 40 percent of his body, the New York Times reported.
It was initially reported that Saleh, who is in the Armed Forces Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, had suffered burns on his face, neck and arms when a blast struck at the palace mosque during prayers.
However, the Times, citing Yemeni officials and Western diplomats, reported that the burns also covered some of his back as well. The report quoted one Western official as saying Saleh's face was charred and the burns are serious.
The source of the explosion, which killed several guards and the imam of the mosque and injured several other government officials, has also been mysterious. It was initially believed to have come from a mortar or rocket attack from outside the compound.
But as the investigation continued, opinion has shifted to the possibility of at least one or more explosive devices, including in the minbar, or pulpit, according to the report.
The explosive material also apparently contained some kind of accelerant that spurred flames, the newspaper cited a Western diplomat as saying.
The Times reported that both the Yemeni and Western officials said the burns are not life-threatening but are extensive enough to need three or four months for healing, the report said. An aide reached at the hospital refused to confirm or deny the extent of the president's injuries.
Mutiny shows cracks in Syria's regime
A deadly mutiny of Syrian soldiers and loss of control over a tense northern town appeared to show extraordinary cracks in an autocratic regime that has long prided itself on its iron control.
Details about the events in Jisr al-Shughour remained murky on Tuesday. The government said 120 forces were dead, without explaining the enormous loss of life.
But the reports Tuesday from residents and activists — and the television appearance of a soldier who says he switched sides after his hometown was bombarded — were the clearest sign yet that the weekly protests of thousands of Syrians are eroding President Bashar Assad's grip.
Activists and residents of Jisr al-Shughour told the Associated Press that a number of soldiers joined forces with protesters after days of crackdowns in the region, leading to fighting with officers and security guards in which dozens were killed.
Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian dissident and a visiting scholar at the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, said the scale of the mutiny was unknown.
Ziadeh said the Syrian army was a strong institution "but in the end, the army is from the people.''
"The outrage over the killings is growing and the longer it goes on the more deserters we're going to see," he said.
An alleged army deserter identifying himself as Lt. Abdul-Razzaq Tlass appeared on the Al-Jazeera television network Tuesday, saying he was deserting because of the regime's "crimes" all over the country. He called on other officers to protect protesters against the regime.
Jisr al-Shughour drew the most recent assault by Syria's military, whose nationwide crackdown on the revolt against Assad has left more than 1,300 Syrians dead, activists say. A resident said tensions began last week with snipers and security forces firing repeatedly on peaceful protests and then funerals, killing around 30 people.