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yemen_saleh_leaves.jpgThousands 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13658445

Tag(s) : #Moyen et Proche Orient