RIYADH: Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh underwent surgery to remove sharp pieces of wood and little blood clots from his chest in Riyadh on Sunday.
Diplomatic and hospital sources said Saleh was fine and recovering fast at the Armed Forces Hospital in the Saudi capital. He will later have plastic surgery to mend wounds on his face and neck.
He will stay in the hospital for an indeterminate amount of time for treatment and rehabilitation, said the sources. “But, a full recovery is expected within a short period of time,” a hospital source said.
The president was accompanied by a 59-member entourage, mainly consisting of family members and ruling party officials, in two separate planes. Most of them are staying either in the hospital or at the government-owned Conference Palace Hotel in Riyadh.
In Yemen, the opposition vowed to prevent the return of Saleh as tens of thousands of people celebrated his departure. “We will work with all our strength to prevent his return,” parliamentary opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan said.
But a spokesman of the ruling General People’s Congress told Al Arabiya news channel: “President Saleh will return to Yemen within days.”
In a statement issued on Sunday five European countries – Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – thanked Saudi Arabia for accepting the Yemeni president onto its territory for medical treatment. The statement also urged “the Yemeni people to find the way to reconciliation in a spirit of dialogue and national unity”, the AP news agency reported.
Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has taken over as acting president and supreme commander of the armed forces in Saleh’s absence. However, Hadi announced that Ali Abdullah Saleh is due to return to the country as president following his treatment.
When the rocket struck the mosque in the presidential compound on Friday there were approximately 200 people inside. As a result, 11 guards were killed and five officials were seriously wounded and taken to Saudi Arabia.
After the attack officials promised repeatedly that Saleh would appear in public soon, but eight hours later state TV aired only an audio message from the president, showing an old photo of him on screen.
“If you are well, I am well,” Saleh said in a brief message to the Yemeni people.