It has now been over three weeks since Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh narrowly escaped assassination in an attack on his presidential palace, fleeing into Saudi Arabia for emergency surgery. In the interim Yemen is much as he left it, a nation facing myriad civil wars and insurrections, with the government holding ever less sway.
But according to his spokesman Ahmed al-Sufi, President Saleh is on the brink of returning to the country, and is scheduled to make a public appearance in the next 48 hours. Sufi expressed concerns that “his appearance will not be as the media expects it,” apparently owing to severe burns suffered in the attempt on his life.
Saleh’s return will be hugely controversial, with hundreds of thousands of protesters prepared to march against him ever setting foot in the country again. Though the rest of the regime has remained supportive of the long-serving dictator, many, including the US have called for him to pass control to his Vice President, Major General Hadi.
Violence in the country is already escalating, particular in the southwest where Yemeni troops failed to retake the city of Zinjibar. The return of Saleh is liable to spark even more fighting at a time when the military seems ill-equipped to handle it.