Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Yemen: Saleh retires, hurt, to Saudi Arabia, perhaps never to return

President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in Saudi Arabia for treatment for wounds sustained when either a rocket or shell struck a mosque inside the presidential compound on 3rd June. Several senior people with him were severely injured including Ali al-Mujawwar, the prime minister, two of his deputies, Rashad al-Alimi and Sadiq Amin Abu Ras, head of the Shoura Council (upper house of parliament) Abd al-Aziz Abd al-Ghani and the speaker of the lower house, Yahya al-Rai. Thirty-five members of Saleh's family are in Riyadh with him but they do not include his son Ahmad, the commander of the Republican Guard and Special Forces, or his nephews, Ammar, Yahya and Tariq.

The attack took place soon after shelling of the compound of Shaikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, the head of the Al-Hashid tribal confederation, and came after nearly a week of fighting in Sana'a between the Republican Guard and other forces commanded by Saleh's sons and nephews and tribal militia loyal to Sadiq. Saleh's spokesmen have accused the Al-Ahmar of trying to assassinate the president. They have denied this. There is much speculation about who was responsible for the attack but the Al-Ahmar remain the main suspects. There was an attack on Hamid al-Ahmar's compound later in the day by Republican Guards.

The president's supporters at first described his injuries as minor and promised a television address later in the day. Saleh spoke briefly much later. There were no pictures and he sounded very weary. Vice president Abd al-Rab Mansour Hadi is acting head of state, ostensibly until the return of the president. The acting minister of information said that, “The state has its institutions that can deal with these kinds of circumstances and constitutional procedures will be followed.” Others from Saleh's entourage have said he will return after treatment. There is still uncertainty about the seriousness of his wounds. They are not life-threatening but some reports say it will take him weeks to recover. It is, however, far from certain that he will ever return to Yemen.

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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