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Monday, September 26, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Yemen's Saleh makes a surprise return, orders forces to crush opposition

CAIRO — President Ali Abdullah Saleh unexpectedly returned to Yemen, ordering another offensive against the opposition.


After more than three months in Saudi Arabia, Saleh returned to Sanaa on Sept. 23 in a move that stunned the European Union and United States. Within hours, U.S.-trained regime forces launched an offensive against the opposition and military defectors throughout the Yemeni capital in which at least 44 people were killed.

"With his return, Yemen is experiencing sweeping chaos and the harbingers of a crushing civil war that this ignoramus is determined to ignite," Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, commander of the opposition-aligned 1st Armored Division, said on Sept. 24.

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Opposition sources said Saleh forces deployed snipers to shoot protesters in Sanaa. They said the regime units consisted of the Republican Guard and Central Security Forces, the former commanded by Saleh's son, Ahmed.

"It's as if he [Saleh] was unleashed from a cage and came out to retaliate," opposition spokesman Mohammed Al Sabri said.

It was not clear how Saleh, injured in a rocket attack on his compound in June, left the Saudi port of Jedda after three months of medical treatment. Over the last few weeks, Western and Arab diplomats asserted that Saudi Arabia and the United States agreed that Saleh would not be allowed to return to Yemen.

"The security and humanitarian situation in Yemen can't take any more delays," the Gulf Cooperation Council, which sought to mediate the end of the civil war, said.

Saleh's forces also attacked the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division as well as anti-regime tribal fighters in Sanaa. The sources said at least 30 people were killed in mortar and machine gun fire.

Yemen's official news agency said the president has ordered the elimination of all non-regime forces from Sanaa. The agency said Saleh formed a committee headed by security chief Maj. Gen. Ghalib Al Qamish.

"The president gave orders to the committee to remove any military presence, including roadblocks, checkpoints and the removal of armed men," the news agency said.

Diplomats said the Yemeni president was believed to have been urged by Ahmed to return to Sanaa. They said Ahmed's forces were being opposed by Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was trying to arrange a ceasefire.

"The vice president has been threatened by Saleh to leave Yemen immediately," a diplomat said.

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