The Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh returned Friday to Sana'a after more than three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. He arrived amidst street battles and exchanges of shelling between the elite Republican Guards, led by Saleh's son, and tribesmen opposing Saleh as well as military units who had defected.Nearly 100 people have been killed in Sanaa and elsewhere in Yemen since Sunday.
Saleh left Yemen for Saudi Arabia in June after he was seriously injured in an attack on his presidential compound.During his absence, the country further slipped into chaos after the protests that erupted in February.
The violence took a serious turn this week after negotiations about a regionally-sponsored deal to transfer power took a new turn. Saleh had repeatedly refused to sign the deal, and has recently delegated his deputy to restart negotiations with opponents. It was considered another stalling tactic. What followed by a violent crackdown on protesters and the most violent bout of fighting between Saleh loyalists, among them prominentltly Saleh's son Ahmed who is a commanderof the Republican Guard and the Special Forces, and his opponents.
The fighting continued even after Saleh returned at dawn Friday.Heavy clashes and thuds of mortars were heard throughout the night in Sanaa and into morning Friday. One person was killed overnight after mortars hit the square in central Sanaa where protesters demanding Sale's ouster have been camped out for months, a medical official said on condition of anonymity. Fifteen people were killed in several separate clashes on Thursday.
For the protest leaders, Saleh's return bode ill for the already explosive situation.
"His return means more divisions, more escalation and confrontations," said Abdel-Hadi al-Azizi, a protest leader, told The Associated Press. "We are on a very critical escalation."