Yemen’s Saleh evacuates to Saudi Arabia, VP in power for now
RIYADH — Yemen’s beleaguered President Ali Abdullah Saleh, wounded in shelling of his compound in the capital Sanaa, arrived late Saturday in Riyadh for treatment but has not stood down, a Saudi official said.
“President Saleh has arrived in Riyadh for treatment, but he will return to Yemen,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Saleh has refused to give up the power he has held for nearly 33 years despite four months of angry and violent protests against his rule.
He arrived aboard a Saudi medical aircraft while a second plane carried members of his family, the Saudi official said. His son Ahmad, commander of the elite Republican Guard, remained in Yemen.
Saleh was immediately taken to the capital’s military hospital, the official said.
Saleh was wounded on Friday when a shell hit the presidential palace’s mosque during prayers, killing 11 and wounding 124 people, according to a government official.
In an audio statement broadcast on state television late Friday as he was being treated at the defence ministry hospital in Sanaa, Saleh said he was “well, in good health.”
The embattled leader suffered “burns and scratches to the face and chest,” an official said after the ruling General People’s Congress said he was “lightly wounded in the back of the head.”
His regime has blamed the attack on powerful dissident tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, whose fighters have been battling government forces in the Yemeni capital since a truce crumbled on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar and four other senior Yemeni officials wounded in the shelling of the presidential compound were also transferred to Saudi Arabia for treatment, state news agency Saba reported.
Mujawar was transported to Saudi Arabia along with parliament chief Yahya al-Raie, Advisory Council head Abdulaziz Abdulghani and the deputy prime minister for home affairs, Sadiq Amin Aburas.
Under Yemen’s constitution, Saleh will be replaced during his absence by Deputy President Abdel Rabbo Mansur Hadi.