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Monday, February 14, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Opposition: Rocket attack on mosque injured
top Yemen leaders who have fled country

CAIRO — The Yemeni opposition plans to block any attempt by President Ali Abdullah Saleh to return from Saudi Arabia.


Opposition sources said Saleh, despite the insistence of his aides, was expected to remain in Saudi Arabia in wake of surgery to remove shrapnel from his body. They said Saleh was provided medical treatment in the Saudi kingdom as part of a face-saving arrangement for the president to end 33 years of rule in Yemen.

The opposition sources said virtually the entire upper echelon of the Yemeni government has fled the country. They cited Prime Minister Ali Mujawar, two deputy prime ministers and the speakers of both parliamentary chambers, all of whom were injured when a rocket slammed into a mosque in Saleh's presidential compound.

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"For us, we will work with all our might that he [Saleh] not return," opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan said.

Abdul Al Otwani, a Yemeni opposition member in Saudi Arabia, said Saleh would not be granted immunity from prosecution for the killing of hundreds of civilians in anti-regime protests over the last few weeks. Al Otwani said Saleh was expected to remain in exile in Saudi Arabia and joined by most if not all of his family. Several of Saleh's sons command major elements of the military.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia confirmed that Saleh, 69, landed in Riyad and underwent surgery at King Faisal Specialist Hospital for injuries sustained in a bombing of his palace during the previous day. The Yemeni president was in contact with Saudi King Abdullah, who ordered medical treatment for the arriving head of state.

"The king then sent a high-level medical team on board a special aircraft to Sana'a Saturday [June 4] to conduct medical tests on Saleh and other high-ranking officials who have suffered injuries," the Saudi royal court said.

"The medical team has come to the conclusion that it is appropriate to complete health care for the president in an advanced medical center. Agreeing to this, the president has shown his desire to complete treatment in the kingdom."

Since Saleh's departure, Yemen has been ruled by Vice President Abdul Rabbo Mansour Hadi. One of Hadi's first acts was to order the military back to their barracks and allow medical treatment to those injured in the battles between security forces and rebel tribes.

"His excellency is making a strong recovery and will return home in the coming days," Hadi was quoted on June 6 as telling the ruling General People's Congress.

The fate of Saleh's supporters, particularly that of his tribe, remains uncertain. The sources said Saudi Arabia sought to reach an agreement for a ceasefire as well as financial incentives for rival forces in Yemen.

"We consider this [Saleh departure] to be the beginning of the end to this corrupt, brutal and tyrannical regime," Qahtan, the opposition spokesman, said.

Despite the Saudi efforts, clashes between Islamic insurgents and the Yemen Army continued on June 6. At least seven soldiers were reported killed in Zinjibar, a southern coastal city of 20,000 said to be controlled by Al Qaida.

"It is clear that Saleh will remain in Saudi Arabia, but he is unpredictable and his supporters could carry on the fight," an opposition source said.

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