Yemen govt says Saleh to return shortly

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Yemen govt says Saleh to return shortly

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government vowed on Friday the wounded leader would return to his country within days.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Fri 17 Jun 2011, 8:06 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:21 AM

The fate of Saleh, forced to undergo surgery in Saudi Arabia after an attack on his palace, is at the centre of a political crisis that has paralysed the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state and threatened to tip it into civil war.

Months of protests against Saleh culminated in open warfare in the capital Sanaa last month, after he ducked out of the last of a series of deals that his wealthier Gulf neighbours crafted to ease the Yemeni leader from power.

He has not been seen in public since the attack on June 3, which left him with burns and shrapnel wounds.

“The presidency has confirmed to me that the president will return within coming days,” Abdu al-Janadi, Yemen’s deputy information minister told Reuters, without specifying a date.

“The president’s health is improving continuously,” he said.

In Sanaa, tens of thousands of protesters demanded Saleh give up power and be replaced by a transitional government. “The people continue to bring down the regime,” some chanted.

Prominent figures from the al-Ahmar family, head of the powerful al-Hashed tribal confederation, have backed the protesters and joined the call for a transitional government. Saleh’s other opponents include a general who turned on him.

The deadlock over Saleh’s future coincides with a spike in violence between central government forces, separatists and Islamists, which has fed Western and Gulf fears the country could descend into chaos and give its al Qaeda wing a foothold next to vital oil shipping routes.

Saudi Arabia sent 600,000 barrels of oil to the southern port of Aden on Thursday, as part of a grant of 3 million barrels aimed at easing crippling fuel shortages. Water and electricity are also in short supply.

Southern conflicts escalate

Nearly six months after protesters inspired by the toppling of Western-backed autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia took to the street in hopes of ending Saleh’s 33-year rule, several of Yemen’s multiple conflicts are flaring anew.

Opponents of Saleh say he has let his forces hand over power to Islamist militants, who seized Zinjibar — the capital of the flashpoint southern province of Abyan — last month, in order to stoke fears that only his rule prevents an Islamist takeover.

At least two gunmen were killed in renewed fighting at the fringes of Zinjibar on Friday, local officials said. Air strikes destroyed two houses, they said.

The fall of Zinjibar and subsequent clashes put nearly all its population to flight, and more than 10,000 people have taken refuge in Aden. The government, itself nearly paralysed by the crisis, struggles to feed and house them.

In another southern province, Lahj, where both separatists and Islamist forces have as much or more sway than the central government, gunmen have launched bold attacks in recent days.

At least two soldiers were killed along with four gunmen in fighting on Friday in al-Habilayn, a local official said. The incident occurred in a region of the province where a separatist movement is strong.

Masked assailants whom the Yemeni army called al Qaeda members, briefly took over a security headquarters and government buildings in Masameer and freed some detainees at a local jail on Thursday.

A day earlier, gunmen stormed government buildings in al-Hota, about 65 km (40 miles) away, killing three guards.

Yemeni forces said they caught ten suspected al Qaeda operatives trying to sneak into the southern port city of Aden late on Wednesday. Aden sits near the shipping lanes along which some 3 million barrels of oil pass daily.

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