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News, June 2011
Saleh Leaves Yemen to Saudi Arabia for Treatment After Attack, VP Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi Acting President
Saleh now in Riyadh for treatment; VP is acting president
null In this April 8, 2011 file photo, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh reacts while looking at his supporters during a rally in Sanaa. (AP) 1 of 4
By ARAB NEWS
Published: Jun 4, 2011 20:54 Updated: Jun 5, 2011 02:43
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh has arrived in Riyadh for treatment for wounds from a rocket attack, the Saudi royal court said early Sunday. A late night report by Al Jazeera TV said Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has taken over as acting president and supreme commander of the armed forces of Yemen.
"The Yemeni president has arrived along with officials and citizens who had received different injuries for treatment in Saudi Arabia," the royal court said.
According to the statement, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, responding to a request by the Yemeni government, sent a specialized medical team to Sanaa on Saturday to conduct medical tests on Saleh and other officials and citizens who have suffered injuries as a result of different events that took place recently.
Saleh, his prime minister, two deputy prime ministers and the speakers of both parliamentary chambers, were injured when a rocket slammed into a mosque inside his presidential compound on Friday. Eleven guards died in the attack.
The medical team recommended that the president and his officials be taken to Saudi Arabia to complete their treatment, the statement said.
Saleh arrived at King Khalid Air Base in Riyadh Saturday midnight and was transferred to a military hospital, according to media reports.
Saleh, whose Saudi medical evacuation plane was met by a senior Saudi official, walked off the aircraft but had visible injuries on his neck, head and face, a source told Reuters.
The extent of Saleh’s injuries has been a matter of intense speculation, with Yemen's Deputy Information Minister Abdu Al-Janadi saying the embattled president was in good condition and "there is no reason to transfer him outside the country.”
He told Al-Jazeera that bandages on Saleh’s head for burns and scrapes prevented him from appearing on television as government officials had promised Friday night after the attack.
Sheik Mohammed Nagi Al-Shayef, a leader of the Saleh-allied Bakeel tribe, said he met with the president Saturday evening at the Defense Ministry compound in the capital.
“He suffered burns but they were not serious. He was burned on both hands, his face and head,” Al-Shayef told The Associated Press. He said Saleh also was hit by jagged pieces of wood that splintered from the mosque pulpit. There were about 200 people in the mosque when the rocket landed.
But sources close to Saleh were quoted by the BBC as saying the attack had left the president with a 7.6-cm long piece of shrapnel under his heart and second-degree burns to his chest and face.
Hours after the attack, Saleh delivered an audio address, his voice labored, but the images shown on Yemeni television Friday after the attack were old.
A secretary in Saleh’s office and a ruling party official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters, said Saleh spoke to the King Abdullah afterward.
Defiant despite intense pressure
For months, Saleh has defied intense international pressure, including from longtime ally Washington and its Gulf neighbors, to step down. On several occasions he has agreed to leave power, only to step back at the last moment.
Global powers have been pressing Saleh to sign a Gulf-brokered deal to end his rule. Leaving Yemen, even for medical care, would make it hard for Saleh to retain power and could be seen as the first step in a transfer of leadership.
He has exasperated his former US and Saudi allies, who once saw him as a key partner in efforts to combat Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), by repeatedly reneging on a deal brokered by Gulf states for him to quit in return for immunity from prosecution.
Worries are mounting that Yemen, already on the brink of financial ruin and home to Al-Qaeda militants, could become a failed state that poses a threat to the world’s top oil exporting region and to global security.
Abdulla Ali Al-Radhi, Yemen’s ambassador to Britain, said of Friday’s attack on the palace “The rocket was devastating. It was a clear assassination attempt against the president.”
A growing number of people in Saleh’s inner circle feel the attack may have carried out by General Ali Mohsen who has broken from Saleh, sided with anti-government protesters and called the president a “madman who is thirsty for more bloodshed.”
An expert on Yemen with close ties to Sanaa’s leadership said: “Nobody could have done this with such military precision other than a military man.”
Saleh’s forces retaliated over the attack by shelling the homes of the leaders of the Hashed tribal federation, which has been engaged in street fights with his forces. Spokesmen for the group denied responsibility for the palace attack and said 10 tribesmen were killed and dozens injured by the shelling.
Through the pre-dawn hours Saturday, government and opposition forces exchanged rocket fire, damaging a contested police station. The rockets rained down on streets housing government buildings that had been taken over by tribesmen.
Since violence erupted in the city on May 23, residents have been hiding in basements as the two sides fight for control of government ministries and hammer one another in artillery duels and gunbattles, rattling neighborhoods and sending smoke billowing into the air above Sanaa.
A day after the deadly attack, however, King Abdullah intervened to tamp down what has become an all-out military conflict on the Kingdom's southern border. The capital and other areas of Yemen grew quiet for the first time in days after dawn Saturday.
A Saudi official confirmed that King Abdullah had brokered a fresh truce Yemeni government officials and opposition tribal leaders reported that Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen, mediated a cease-fire.
between a powerful Yemeni tribal federation and forces loyal to Saleh, and a tribal leader said his followers were abiding by it.
Abdullah intervened to tamp down what has become an all-out military conflict on his southern border. The capital and other areas of Yemen grew quiet for the first time in days after dawn Saturday.
The cease-fire appeared to be holding on Saturday night and the streets of Sanaa were quiet.
A Saudi-brokered truce agreed a week ago held for only a day before fresh street battles broke out in the capital Sanaa, leading to the most intense fighting there in the four-month-old uprising against Saleh’s rule.
But an early signal that cease-fire might be in the works, arose Saturday afternoon when, in the southern city of Taiz when the Republican Guard brigade that had occupied the streets of the southern city quietly left town and returned to base.
Taiz had been a focal point of anti-Saleh activism since the uprising began. The Republican Guard left Saturday without giving a reason after having violently cleared protest camps there last week.
An official from the Republican Guard’s 33rd brigade said gunmen clashed with the brigade overnight, destroying three of their vehicles. Meanwhile, officers and prominent city residents pressured Brig. Gen. Jibrah Al-Hashidi to stop opposing the protesters, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under military rules.
The brigade issued no official statement as other military groups have done when defecting to the opposition. But its returning to base is significant because it lead a fierce crackdown on protesters earlier this week that killed at least 25 people, sparking international condemnation.
In Washington, the White House called on all sides to stop the fighting, which has killed more than 160 people.
“Violence cannot resolve the issues that confront Yemen, and today’s events cannot be a justification for a new round of fighting,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
President Barack Obama’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, discussed the crisis in Yemen with officials in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during a three-day visit to the Gulf that ended Friday. He vowed to work with Yemen’s powerful neighbors to stop the violence.
Washington fears the chaos will undermine the Yemen government’s US-backed campaign against Al-Qaeda’s branch in the country, which has attempted a number of attacks against the United States. Saleh has been a crucial US ally in the anti-terror fight, but Washington is now trying to negotiate a stable exit for him.
Germany said Saturday it had ordered the immediate closure of its embassy in Yemen “because of current developments.” “The embassy team that is still on the ground will leave the country as soon as it is possible and safe,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, protesters have been trying unsuccessfully since February to oust Saleh with a wave of peaceful protests that have brought out hundreds of thousands daily in Sanaa and other cities.
Now the crisis has transformed into a power struggle between two of Yemen’s most powerful families — Saleh’s, which dominates the security forces, and the Al-Ahmar clan, which leads Yemen’s strongest tribal confederation, known as the Hashid. The confederation is grouped around 10 tribes across the north.
Al-Ahmar announced the Hashid’s support for the protest movement in March, and his fighters adhered to the movement’s nonviolence policy. But last week, Saleh’s forces moved against Al-Ahmar’s fortress-like residence in Sanaa, and the tribe’s fighters rose up in fury.
Yemeni president arrives in Saudi Arabia
France 24, 2011
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, wounded in shelling of his compound in the capital Sana'a, arrived late Saturday in Riyadh for treatment, a Saudi official told AFP.
"President Saleh has arrived in Riyadh for treatment, but he will return to Yemen," the official, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
Saleh has refused to give up the power he has held for nearly 33 years despite four months of angry and violent protests against his rule.
He arrived aboard a Saudi medical aircraft while a second plane carried members of his family, the Saudi official said. He was immediately taken to the capital's military hospital.
Saleh was wounded on Friday when a shell hit the presidential palace's mosque during prayers.
The embattled leader suffered "burns and scratches to the face and chest," an official said after the ruling General People's Congress said he was "lightly wounded in the back of the head."
AFP - Yemen's prime minister and parliament speaker were wounded when shells smashed into a mosque in the presidential compound on Friday, as fighting that has killed scores of people in north Sanaa spread to the south.
The attack was blamed by the authoritites on dissident tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, who have been locked in fierce clashes with government forces in north Sanaa since Tuesday.
"The prime minister, head of the parliament and several other officials who attended the Friday prayers in the mosque at the presidential palace were wounded in the attack," said Tareq al-Shami, spokesman for the ruling General People's Congress.
"The Ahmar (tribe) have crossed all red lines," he added.
The mosque attack came soon after Yemeni troops, who have deployed heavy weaponry in their battle against the tribesmen, sent a shell crashing into the home of Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, a leader of the biggest opposition party and brother of Sheikh Sadiq.
Three shells also struck near the university campus in the city centre where opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh have been holding a sit-in since late January.
After a brief lull at dawn, artillery and heavy machine-gun fire rocked the Al-Hassaba neighbourhood of northern Sanaa where Sheikh Sadiq has his base, witnesses said.
They said that during the fighting the headquarters of national airline Yemenia was burnt down and the offices of Suhail TV, a channel controlled by Sheikh Sadiq, destroyed.
There was no immediate word on casualties from the latest fighting as medics said ambulance crews were unable to access the battlegrounds.
Even as the fighting raged into a fourth straight day and the poverty-stricken Arabian Peninsula country teetered towards civil war, rival demonstrators took to the streets of Sanaa, witnesses said.
Hundreds of anti-Saleh demonstrators gathered at Change Square, near the university, for a day of solidarity with Taez, south of Sanaa, where security forces this week smashed a months-long sit-in protest at a cost of more than 50 lives.
Troops loyal to dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar were deployed to protect the protesters, although positions held by the rebel army units also came under artillery fire.
At the same time, as on past Fridays, the Muslim day of weekly prayers, a large crowd of Saleh supporters gathered at a square near the presidential palace for a rally broadcast on state television.
In Taez, security forces backed by Republican Guards fired in the air to prevent youths from rallying in Tahrir Square for Friday prayers, forcing them to gather in small groups at nearby mosques, an AFP photographer said.
More than 60 people have now been confirmed killed in the fighting in the capital since a fragile truce collapsed on Tuesday between Ahmar's heavily armed tribesmen and troops loyal to Saleh.
At the same time, Saleh, who has been in power in Sanaa since 1978, has faced nationwide protests against his rule for the past four months.
When Saleh last month refused to sign a plan by Yemen's Arab neighbours in the Gulf for him to step down in return for immunity, Ahmar's fighters seized public buildings across Sanaa, sparking clashes with troops loyal to the president.
A truce announced last week lasted just four days.
On the diplomatic front, Gulf Cooperation Council head Abdellatif Zayani said on Friday he was keeping up efforts to seek a negotiated settlement, as Saleh's camp continued to send out mixed signals on whether he would accept the plan.
And the White House said Thursday its top counter-terrorism aide John Brennan, currently on a visit to the Gulf, was working with US allies in the region to build pressure on Saleh to immediately cede power.
Nationwide, more than 200 demonstrators have been killed since the protests first erupted, according to an AFP tally based on reports from medics.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh blamed an 'outlaw gang' among his tribal enemies for a shelling attack on a mosque in the presidential compound that slightly injured him and several aides and killed seven people.
The attack on Friday took place amid fierce fighting in the capital Sanaa and a widening conflict elsewhere in the impoverished country, where an uprising against Saleh is challenging his nearly 33 years in power.
Global powers are worried that Yemen, home to a wing of the militant group al Qaeda known as AQAP and bordering the world's biggest oil exporter Saudi Arabia, could become a failed state and make Gulf oil shipments more vulnerable to attack.
Speaking only via audio in a televised speech on Friday night, Saleh blamed the attack on the powerful Hashed tribe led by Sadeq al-Ahmar who has been battling Saleh loyalists in Sanaa. Ahmar later denied responsibility.
"I salute our armed forces and the security forces for standing up firmly to confront this challenge by an outlaw gang that has nothing to do with the so-called youth revolution," Saleh said. "Seven officers were martyred."
The deputy information minister said earlier that Saleh, 69, had suffered minor injuries but was in good health.
A senior diplomat said the prime minister, his deputy, the parliament speaker and other aides were hurt in the attack.
Yemen has tipped swiftly towards civil war this week, with Hashed tribesmen battling Saleh forces in Sanaa. More than 370 people have been killed since a popular uprising against Saleh began in January, at least 155 of them in the last 10 days.
On Friday, fierce fighting engulfed the capital, where residents cowered in their homes as explosions rocked the city.
"A cowardly attack with an explosive projectile took place during Friday prayers at the presidential palace mosque where ... Saleh and senior government officials were present," state news agency Saba said.
Forces loyal to Saleh later shelled the homes of the leaders of the Hashed tribal federation, security sources said.
The United States and the European Union condemned the rising violence and urged Saleh to accept a peaceful transfer of power.
Saleh has exasperated his former U.S. and Saudi allies who had once seen him as a key partner in efforts to combat al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Defying world pressure, Saleh has thrice reneged on a deal brokered by Gulf states for him to quit in return for immunity from prosecution, even as he loses support at home.
Yemen's increasingly bloody struggle looks sure to go on as long as Saleh refuses to step down and it will complicate the already formidable challenge of uniting the country and rebuilding shattered state institutions in any post-Saleh era.
One constant factor is poverty. Jobs and food are scarce, corruption is rampant and two-fifths of the 23 million people struggle to live on less than $2 a day.
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