JNN 23 Sept 2011 — Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to his restive nation Friday morning from Saudi Arabia, the state-run TV and Saba news agency reported. The fighting flared up hours after Saleh’s surprise return to Sanaa early Friday, leaving at least 18 of al-Ahmar’s followers dead Friday.
“President of the Republic, Ali Abdullah Saleh, returned this morning to the land of Yemen safely after a medical trip in Riyadh that lasted more than three months,” reads a caption aired by the state TV.
Saleh received medical treatment in Riyadh after being injured in a bomb attack early June.
Saleh’s return came after six straight days of deadly clashes between his supporters and defected army troops backed by opposition tribal rebels in the capital, which left at least 111 people dead and nearly 1,000 injured.
Despite continuing meditation efforts by the UN envoy to Yemen and chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Yemen is still in the grip of a political standoff and heavy clashes.
An official from the Interior Ministry told Xinhua that all roads linking the Sanaa airport and the presidential palace in the southern part of the capital were blocked by the Republican Guard troops and that Saleh had earlier arrived at his presidential compound.
Saleh’s supporters in Sanaa, Ibb, Thamar, Taiz and other provinces fired heavy gunshots to the air to celebrate the president’s return, eyewitnesses said.
The embattled president has faced eight-month-long protest demanding an immediate end to his 33-year rule.
An hour after Saleh’s arrival at his presidential compound, government troops resumed heavy shelling on squares where anti-Saleh protesters were gathered in Sanaa and Taiz, the country’s second largest city in the south, killing at least one protester in Sanaa and injuring dozens in Taiz, medics told Xinhua.
Residents of Hassaba districts in downtown Sanaa told Xinhua the Republican Guard troops bombarded the residential compounds of opposition tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahmar and his brothers, confirming that one of al-Ahmar’s armed followers was killed and several others were injured.
A large number of foreigners, especially employees in the UN branch office in Sanaa and in Western embassies left Yemen, the official of the Interior Ministry said.
Huge explosions could be heard across the capital, especially in the districts of Hadda, Hassaba and near the state television.
“Saleh’s return is none of our business… It’s the business of street protesters now,” opposition spokesman Mohamed Qahtan told Xinhua, declining to comment further.
Another opposition official warned that “Saleh has no real intention to transfer the power peacefully, instead he clearly intends to suppress the uprising with more massacres on protester-held squares.”
Bushra al-Maktary, a leading protester in Taiz city, told Xinhua that “Saleh’s return is an official declaration of war.”
At least 36 people were killed, including 11 defected soldiers, and more than 100 others were wounded when troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh shelled a camp of protesters and a base of a defected military unit in Yemen’s capital Saturday, medics and defected officials said.
“Over than 200 mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) and Katyusha rockets hit the protesters’ Change Square, the military base of defected First Armored Division and residential houses,” an official of the defected army told Xinhua.
“As many as 11 dissident soldiers were killed and dozens of others were wounded,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Medics at the square’s field hospital said 25 protesters have been killed since early morning and more than 80 were injured in the continuing attacks on the sit-in camp.
Residents in areas surrounding the square and the defected military base told Xinhua that some 15 residential houses were hit by random shells and nearly 10 civilians were wounded by shrapnel.
The clashes came a few hours after the overnight street battles in the northern edge of Sanaa between government forces and armed tribesmen loyal to Sadiqal-Ahmar, a key opposition tribal leader of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The embattled president, who has confronted eight months of mass protest movement, spent more than three months in the Saudi capital to treat burn wounds he sustained in an attack on his presidential palace in Sanaa on June 3.
In a speech given hours after his arrival, Saleh called for a ceasefire between his troops and the defected army. Earlier Saturday, he ordered a committee formed last week by his deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to lift military checkpoints and end the presence of his troops as well as the defected army, the Defense Ministry said on its website.
Despite Saleh’s continuing efforts, deadly battles continued.
An official close to Saleh’s office told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that “The clashes will continue till protesters stop shouting their slogans.”
The defected army issued a statement Saturday, accusing Saleh of returning to Sanaa “to explode the situation militarily,” and warning that “such action will affect the whole Arab region.”
- YEMEN’S RULING PARTY APPROVES PLAN TO RELEASE SALEH FROM POWER
- MILLIIONS OF PROTESTERS STAGE ANTI-GOVERNMENT RALLIES ACROSS YEMEN
- THOUSANDS PROTEST IN YEMEN AMIDST TENSION
- YEMENI’S PROTEST AGAINST THE SAUDI AND US INTERVENTION IN THEIR INTERNAL MATTER
- SALEH MAKES FIRST TV ADDRESS FROM SAUDI ARABIA AFTER SURVIVING THE BLAST
- YEMENI’S PROTEST AND CONDEMN SAUDI INTERVENTION IN THEIR INTERNAL AFFAIRS
- SAUDI’S PLAYING MAJOR PART IN DEFLECTING THE YEMENI REVOLUTION INTO CIVIL WAR