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Saleh returns to Yemen at tensest time in months

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Ahmed Jadallah/Reurters

(Read caption) Anti-government protesters attend a rally demanding the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, today. Saleh unexpectedly returned to Yemen on Friday after three months in Saudi Arabia recovering from an assassination attempt, raising the risk of further violence and civil war.

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Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to Sanaa today after more than three months away, and in the midst of the country's most violent week since June.

More than 100 people have died in the capital since Sunday, and many believe the fighting will intensify now that Mr. Saleh has returned, despite his immediate call for a ceasefire. Some in Yemen even warn that Saleh's return will tip the country into civil war – a possibility it's been facing for a week now.

Clashes between government troops and security forces and defected soldiers have raged for days. Tribal fighters joined in against government forces on Thursday, according to The New York Times, bringing the situation closer to where it was in June, when confused, fierce fighting in the capital also had the country on the brink of civil war. Saleh was severely wounded in June's fighting and left for Saudi Arabia to recover.

His return is "like gasoline on a raging fire," writes Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright fellow in Yemen.

Saleh's return comes at the worst possible moment for the country. Fighting has recently broken out between army units loyal to him and his family and those on the side of the uprising, while tribes backing each side have also recently begun fighting again in different parts of Sanaa.


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