The Associated Press reports:
Protesters danced, sang and slaughtered cows in the central square of Yemen’s capital Sunday to celebrate the departure of the country’s authoritarian leader for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia after he was wounded in a rocket attack on his compound.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh was undergoing surgery to his chest at a military hospital in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, said a Yemeni diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity under diplomatic rules. One of Saleh’s allies said the president, in his late 60s, was hit by jagged pieces of wood that splintered from the mosque pulpit when his compound was hit by a rocket on Friday.
There was no official announcement on who was acting as head of state. But under Yemen’s constitution, the vice president takes over for up to 60 days when the head of state is absent. Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi met Sunday with U.S. Ambassador Gerald Michael Feierstein, a strong indication that he is in charge.
Brian Whitaker writes:
With the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, Yemenis now have a chance to resolve the political crisis that has bedevilled the country since February.
Contrary to the official story that he merely suffered scratches and/or a slight head wound in the explosion on Friday, latest reports say he has second-degree burns to his face and chest, plus a piece of shrapnel lodged near his heart which is affecting his breathing – though Saleh, who is 69, is said to have been able to walk from the plane when he landed in Riyadh.
A second plane followed him, reportedly carrying 24 members of his family. This is one indication that to all intents and purposes the Saleh era is finished. He is unlikely ever to return to Yemen as president – and the Saudis and Americans will be working behind the scenes to ensure that he doesn’t.
It’s also worth mentioning that others injured by the explosion include the prime minister, deputy prime minister, the heads of both houses of parliament and the governor of Sana’a, the capital. Some of them have also been flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment. One of Saleh’s nephews, the commander of the special forces, is said to have been killed. So, even discounting Saleh himself, what’s left of his regime is in serious disarray.