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Yemen president returns after 3 month absence: report - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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File photo of Yemen's President Saleh during a meeting in Riyadh Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh is seen during a meeting in Riyadh. (R)

File photo of Yemen’s President Saleh during a meeting in Riyadh Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh is seen during a meeting in Riyadh. (R)

SANAA (Reuters) – President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to Yemen on Friday, state television reported, after spending three months in Saudi Arabia recovering from a June assassination attempt.

Saleh’s return comes amid a surge of violence in the capital Sanaa, rocked by clashes between loyalist troops and forces backing a mass protest movement calling for his overthrow.

Within minutes of the announcement, loud bursts of gunfire and explosions were heard echoing through the capital.

“Ali Abdullah Saleh, President of the Republic, returned this morning to the land of the nation safely after a trip for treatment in Riyadh that lasted more than three months,” an urgent news break on Yemen Television said.

A Reuters witness said the road to Sanaa’s military airport was blocked on Friday morning.

Saleh has clung to his 33-year rule despite pressure to sign a power transition deal and a bomb attack on his compound in June that left him severely wounded.

Protesters took to the streets in January, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.

The United States, Saudi Arabia and other powers fear al-Qaeda’s Yemen wing could exploit the growing lawlessness in the country. Al Qaeda militants have already seized cities in a Yemeni province just east of a key oil shipping channel in recent months.

A defecting Yemeni soldier takes position behind sandbags during clashes in Sanaa, as tribesmen join battles between rival military units, raising fears among frightened residents of a descent into civil war.    (AFP)

A defecting Yemeni soldier takes position behind sandbags during clashes in Sanaa, as tribesmen join battles between rival military units, raising fears among frightened residents of a descent into civil war. (AFP)

A video still from Yemen's state television showing him delivering a speech from the Saudi capital Riyadh on July 7, 2011, his first TV appearance since he was wounded in an explosion at his palace in Sanaa. (AFP)

A video still from Yemen’s state television showing him delivering a speech from the Saudi capital Riyadh on July 7, 2011, his first TV appearance since he was wounded in an explosion at his palace in Sanaa. (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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