Yemen's Saleh to return from Saudi Arabia after surgery

Medical sources say Yemeni president undergoing chest surgery to remove shrapnel; many in Yemen hope Saleh's departure is permanent.

June 5, 2011 15:17
1 minute read.
Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)


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SANAA/RIYADH - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, wounded in an attack on his palace, has flown to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment, potentially offering a face-saving end to his three decade rule. A medical source told Reuters Yemen's president was undergoing surgery on Sunday to remove shrapnel from his chest.

Yemeni ruling party official Tareq al-Shami said that Saleh would return to the country within days, but uncertainty about whether he would be able to maintain his grip after months of protests meant the risk of further turmoil remained high.

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Timeline: Saleh's 33-year rule in Yemen
Al Jazeera: Yemeni VP is declared acting leader
Saleh headed to Saudi Arabia; Yemen VP now acting president

Some Yemenis celebrated what they hoped would be Saleh's permanent departure, but the jubilation was mixed with firefights and explosions in Sanaa, and gunbattles broke out in the city of Taiz, about 200 km south of the capital.

Acting President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi met military commanders, including Saleh's powerful sons and nephews, who remain in Yemen. Hadi also met the US ambassador.

Worries are mounting that Yemen, already on the brink of financial ruin and home to al Qaida militants, could become a failed state that poses a threat to the world's top oil exporting region and to global security.

Meanwhile, witnesses said gunfire was heard in the Hasaba district, a focal point of fighting in recent weeks between Saleh's forces and members of the powerful Hashed tribe led by Sadeq al-Ahmar.

In the southern city of Taiz, thousands of people celebrated Saleh's trip to Saudi Arabia with a fireworks display, but Al Jazeera reported several people were wounded in heavy gunfire.

Leaving Yemen at a time of such instability, even for medical care, could make it hard for Saleh to retain power.

The true seat of power, following Saleh's departure, has yet to be decided. But Saleh's eldest son, Ahmed, commands the elite Republican Guard and three of his nephews control the country's security and intelligence units.

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