SANAA, June 5 (Xinhua): A day after Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh left the southwestern part of the nation Saturday for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, power struggles have escalated in the country. Officials, however, are maintaining that he is not abdicating and that he will back within days after the medical check ups.
Yemeni Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi on Sunday formally started to exercise power as acting president after President Ali Abdullah Saleh left late Saturday for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, a senior official told Xinhua.
Hadi, later the day, is expected to hold a meeting with military leaders, which will be attended by commanders from the family of President Saleh.
The senior official added Hadi received on Sunday the U.S. ambassador to Yemen and discussed with him procedures for transferring of power after Saleh left Yemen.
The president was wounded on Friday by artillery shells after gunmen loyal to opposition tribal leader Sadiq al-Ahamr fired at the presidential palace on Friday.
The attack left 11 of Saleh’s bodyguards dead and a number of senior officials wounded. The wounded were airlifted to Saudi Arabia for treatment before Saleh’s departure, official sources said
The attack came after two weeks of pitched street battles between government troops and armed tribesmen loyal to opposition leader Sadiq al-Ahmar.
Analysts said that opposition groups believed Saleh tried to stay in power by resorting to dilatory tactic. He had so far refused for the third time, most recently on May 23, to sign a reconciliation deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council.
And the attacks on government buildings and the presidential palace in particular were aimed at removing Saleh from office, they said.
They said Yemen is now on the edge of a civil war, and some believed the country is already in a civil war.
“Isn’t it called a war has begun when opposition and government forces have gone into violent clashes in the capital?” said a sociology professor from Sanaa University.
“I believe a civil war in the real sense has already begun, though no one has admitted it,” said the professor who preferred anonymity.
Situation in Yemen is sure to further deteriorate and horrible things cannot be avoided without international mediation efforts, he added.
Other observers, however, argued that Yemen is now undergoing a bitter power struggle.
As the Hashed tribal forces led by opposition leader Sadeq al-Ahmar, President Saleh and a host of government army officers belong to the same tribe, the clashes look more like an internal strife for power rather than a civil war among different tribal forces, they noted.
Shortly after the attack on the presidential palace, Saleh sent an audio message to state media, condemning al-Ahmar and what he called defectors for their conspiracy against his government and vowing to capture and crack down on those attackers.
A spokesman for al-Ahmar, however, denied any involvement in the shell attack on the mosque inside the presidential palace.
Some analysts in Yemen noted that the artillery attack was precisely targeted and the type of weapons and ammunition used in the shelling seemed more sophisticated than the usual stuff used by the tribal militia. This prompted them to speculate the possible involvement of other forces.
On Sunday, the Defence Ministry said in a statement that al-Qaida was behind the attack.
Medical examination upon his arrival in Saudi capital of Riyadh late Saturday indicated that Saleh was seriously wounded. One of the injuries was in the chest, 6.7cm from the heart while his face and chest suffered second-degree burns.
Saleh did not express any intention to quit soon, but it is widely believed he is grooming his son, Ahmed, as a successor.
Ahmed is in charge of the elite Republican Guard, one of the main forces helping Saleh cling to power.
Concerns are mounting that Ahmed’s grip on power could pit the country into a violent power struggle as all parties rush to fill the vacuum in the president’s absence.
Although Washington has long had Saleh as an ally in the fight against terror, the Obama administration has been trying to broker an exit for him for fears that the worsening situation would plunge the country into anarchy and undermine the U.S.-backed campaign against al-Qaida’s most active branch.
The United States condemned the recent violence in Yemen, including Friday’s attack on the presidential palace compound in the capital city of Sanaa.
The White House urged all sides in Yemen to cease “hostilities immediately” and to pursue an “orderly and peaceful” power transfer according to the agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council.
“Violence cannot resolve the issues that confront Yemen, and today’s events cannot be a justification for a new round of fighting,” said the White House, urging all sides to heed the wishes of the “Yemeni people.”
Meanwhile, The European Union (EU) also activated a mechanism to evacuate its citizens from protest-torn Yemen amid escalating violence in the Middle East country.
“In agreement with the Presidency, I have activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (MIC) to help facilitate the evacuation of EU citizens who wish to leave,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in a statement.
The statement said the EU and its 27 member states would not pull its diplomats from Yemen.
However, Germany said Saturday it had closed its embassy in Yemen “because of current developments.”