5 June 2011 11:17 ET
Thousands of people in Yemen are
celebrating the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Saudi Arabia.
He left on Saturday to be treated for injuries he received in an attack on
his presidential compound on Friday.
Many celebrated in the capital, Sanaa’s University Square; others were on the streets chanting and waving flags.
But explosions and gunfights have also taken place in Sanaa and Taiz in the
south. It remains unclear whether Mr Saleh will return to Yemen.
His departure leaves him in a much weakened position, analysts say.
Saudi Arabia, which shares a 1,500km (930-mile) border with Yemen, has been
active in trying to broker a transition of power in Yemen.
Even if President Saleh wants to return to Yemen it is unlikely Saudi Arabia
will allow him, says BBC Middle East correspondent Jon Leyne.
Yemeni Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has replaced Mr Saleh in his
absence, and is in command of the armed forces and security services.
For 33 years, Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh has been the great survivor.
But everything suggests that his visit to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment
will be a one-way trip.
Even if he wanted to return to Yemen, it’s unlikely the Saudis would let him.
Quite possibly, they engineered this medical trip as a face-saving way to get
him out of power.
So it appears that President Saleh will be the third leader swept away in
what has become known as the Arab spring, following President Ben Ali of
Tunisia, and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
If President Saleh is gone for good, a new battle for power will begin, with
the vice-president, President Saleh’s eldest son, tribal leaders and a popular
protest movement attempting to take control.
He met US ambassador Gerald Michael Feierstein, state
news agency Saba reported, to discuss “the importance of co-operation with the
[opposition] Common Forum” alliance.
Yemen’s conflict began in January with peaceful anti-government protests
inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
In recent weeks it has developed into street battles in Sanaa between
government forces and fighters loyal to Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the
powerful Hashid tribal federation. The fighting has left more than 160 dead and
brought the country to the brink of civil war.
Renewed fighting was reported in Sanaa on Sunday.
Four Yemeni soldiers also died in an attack in the southern city of Taiz,
officials said. One attacker was also killed.
In the southern port city of Aden, militants attacked an army checkpoint
wounding two soldiers, witnesses said.
Mr Saleh flew to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Saturday after being hit by
shrapnel three inches (7.6cm) below the heart in an attack on the presidential
compound on Friday.
The compound’s mosque is believed to have been hit by rockets, although there
are suggestions someone may have planted a bomb there.
On Sunday, witnesses said Mr Saleh had walked off the plane, although wounds
to his head, face and neck were clearly visible.
He is reported to have travelled with 35 members of his family, including his
wife, as well as the prime minister and the Speaker of the Yemeni parliament.
But his son, Ahmed, and nephews Amar and Yahya, who are Mr Saleh’s military
commanders, are reported to still be in the country.
Ahmed commands the elite Republican Guard, and other relatives control
security and intelligence units.
Amar and Yahya have co-operated with the US in fighting terrorism. Many in
Yemen believe their presence in this transitional period is essential and
welcomed by regional and international powers, says the BBC’s Lina Sinjab in
The president broadcast an audio message on Friday after he was wounded, but
did not appear in public.
In the broadcast, he blamed the attack on an “outlaw gang” of his tribal foes
– an accusation denied by Sheikh Ahmar, whose fighters have been clashing with
The Ahmar family has been financing the opposition and supporting
President Saleh – who at times used brute force to try to quell
demonstrations – had agreed to a deal brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council
that would see him step down in return for an amnesty from prosecution.
However, he has so far refused to sign the deal.
Ali Abdullah Saleh was born on March 21st according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Abdullah_Saleh
3 + 21 +2+0+1+1 = 28 = his personal year (from March 21st, 2011 to March 20th, 2012) = Powerlessness.
28 year + 5 (May) = 33 = his personal month (from May 21st, 2011 to June 20th, 2011) = Backing down. Caving in.