Yemenis rejoice as Saleh leaves but fighting continues

 

The BBC's Jon Leyne: ''You have to doubt Mr Saleh will ever go back to Yemen''

Thousands of people in Yemen have been celebrating the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Saudi Arabia.

He is being treated there for injuries 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.

Mr Saleh underwent two successful operations on Sunday on his chest and neck, Saudi officials said, suggesting he would seek to return to Sanaa after convalescing.

But even if President Saleh wants to return, it is unlikely Saudi Arabia will allow him, BBC Middle East correspondent Jon Leyne says.

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.

Analysis

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 Sadiq 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.

On Sunday, Sheikh Sadiq said he had agreed to a truce and to withdraw from public buildings following a request from Vice-President Hadi.

Earlier, renewed fighting was reported in Sanaa on Sunday, while 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.

Family network

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.

Yemen map

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 Sanaa.

Damage to the mosque in the presidential palace in Sanaa where President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded - 4 June 2011 The attack on the mosque left seven of Mr Saleh's bodyguards dead and several officials wounded

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 security forces.

The Ahmar family has been financing the opposition and supporting protesters.

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.

 

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  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 22.

    It is a great joy for the Yemeni People to have their liberty at last.

    What a golden chance for them to implement the sharia law that they waited for years. Now they got the chance of experiencing complete peace and prosperity under the sharia law. Hope bright future for the Yemeni People and lasting peace

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 18.

    It is said Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely. Time has come for President of Yamen to depart Recent awakening amongst Arab Nations and their desire for Democratic Change will prevail. Negotiated departure is better than violent revolutionary exit with uncertain consequences

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 8.

    Those who make peaceful change impossible makes violent revolution inevitable. Also, the agreement which the President so indignantly rejected has become the reality of the day and his departure. Good riddance to bad leaders.

 
 

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