Saleh developed deeper ties with Western powers
, especially the United States, in the War on Terror
. Islamic terrorism
may have been used and encouraged by Ali Abdullah Saleh to win Western support and for disruptive politically motivated attacks.
In 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring
, which spread across North Africa and the Middle East (including Yemen), Saleh's time in office became more and more untenable until eventually he was ousted as president in 2012. He was succeeded by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi
, who had been vice-president since 1994.
On 4 December 2017 during a battle
between Houthi and Saleh supporters in Sana'a, Houthis accused Saleh of "treason" and he was killed by a Houthi sniper.
Reports were that Saleh was killed while trying to flee his compound in a car; however, this was denied by his party officials who said he was executed at his house.
Young Ali Saleh in the Imamate Army of Yemen uniform
Ali Abdullah Saleh was born on 21 March 1947 to a poor family
at Bait el-Ahmar village
(Red House village)
from the Sanhan (سنحان
) clan (Sanhan District
), whose territories lie some 20 kilometres southeast of the capital, Sana'a
. Saleh's father, Abdallah Saleh died when Saleh was still young
and after he divorced Ali Abdullah's mother.
His mother later remarried to her deceased former husband's brother, Muhammad Saleh, who soon became Saleh's mentor and stepfather.
Saleh's brother Mohammed
was a Major General and had three children: Yahya
, and Ammar, who all served under Saleh during his rule.
Saleh's cousin, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar
from the Al Ahmar family, which is also part of Sanhan clan is often confused with the same-named leading family of the Hashid tribe, with which the Sanhan clan was ally.
The Hashid tribe, in turn, belongs to the larger Yemeni parent group, the Kahlan
tribe. The clans Sanhan and Khawlan are said to be related.
Rise to the presidency
Saleh received his primary education at Ma'alama village
before leaving to join the North Yemeni
Armed Forces in 1958 at the age of 16 as an infantry soldier, and was admitted to the North Yemen Military Academy in 1960.
Three years later, in 1963, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant
in the Armoured Corps
He participated in the Nasserist-inspired Army Coup of 1962, which was instrumental in the removal of King Muhammad al-Badr
and the establishment of the Yemen Arab Republic
. During the North Yemen Civil War
he served in the Tank Corps
, attaining the rank of major by 1969. He received further training as a staff officer
in the Higher Command and staff C Course in Iraq, between 1970 and 1971, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel
. He became a full colonel
in 1976 and was given command of a mechanised brigade. In 1977, the President of North Yemen
, Ahmed bin Hussein al-Ghashmi
, appointed him as military governor of Ta'izz
After al-Ghashmi was assassinated on 24 June 1978, Colonel Saleh was appointed to be a member of the four-man provisional presidency council and deputy to the general staff commander.
On 17 July 1978, Saleh was elected by the Parliament
to be the President of the Yemen Arab Republic
, while simultaneously holding the positions of chief of staff and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Governance in the Middle East and North Africa: A Handbook
describes Saleh as being neither from a "sheikhly family" nor a "large or important tribe", but instead rising to power through "his own means", and creating a patronage system with his family at the top.
His seven brothers were placed "in key positions", and later he relied on "sons, daughters, sons-in-law and nephews".
Beneath the positions occupied by his extended family, Saleh "relied heavily on the loyalty" of two tribes, his own Sanhan tribe and the Hamdan San'a tribe of his mentor, the late president Ahmad al-Ghashmi
. The New York Times
Middle Eastern correspondent Robert F. Worth
described Saleh as reaching an understanding with powerful feudal "big sheikhs" to become "part of a Mafia-style spoils system that substituted for governance".
Worth accused Saleh of exceeding the aggrandisement of other Middle Eastern strongmen by managing to "rake off tens of billions of dollars in public funds for himself and his family" despite the extreme poverty of his country.
North Yemen presidency
Saleh in 1988, as President of North Yemen
On 10 August 1978, Saleh ordered the execution of 30 officers who were charged with being part of a conspiracy against his rule.
Saleh was promoted to major general
in 1980, elected as the secretary-general of the General People's Congress
party on 30 August 1982, and re-elected president of the Yemen Arab Republic
In the late 1980s, Saleh was under considerable international pressure to permit his country's Jewish
citizens to travel freely to places abroad. Passports were eventually issued to them, which facilitated their unrestricted travel.
Unified Yemen presidency
The decline of the Soviet Union
severely weakened the status of South Yemen
, and, in 1990, the North and South agreed to unify
after years of negotiations. The South accepted Saleh as President of the unified country, while Ali Salim al-Beidh
served as the Vice President and a member of the Presidential Council.
Ali Abdullah Saleh was a long-time ally of Iraq
's Saddam Hussein
and supported Hussein's invasion of Kuwait
in 1990. After Iraq lost the Gulf War
, Yemeni workers were deported from Kuwait by the restored government.
On 24 December 1997, Parliament approved Saleh's promotion to the rank of field marshal
making him highest-ranking military officer in Yemen.
Vice President Dick Cheney
and President Ali Abdullah Saleh discuss joint efforts to fight terrorist activity at a press conference in Sana'a
, Yemen, 14 March 2002
After the 1999 elections the Parliament passed a law extending presidential terms from five to seven years, extending parliamentary terms from four to six years, and creating a 111-member, presidentially-appointed council of advisors with legislative power.
This move prompted Freedom House
to downgrade their rating of political freedom in Yemen from 5 to 6.
In July 2005, during the 27th-anniversary celebrations of his presidency, Saleh announced that he would "not contest the [presidential] elections" in September 2006. He expressed hope that "all political parties – including the opposition and the General People's Congress – find young leaders to compete in the elections because we have to train ourselves in the practice of peaceful succession."
However, in June 2006, Saleh changed his mind and accepted his party's nomination as the presidential candidate of the GPC, saying that when he initially decided not to contest the elections his aim was "to establish ground for a peaceful transfer of power
", and that he was now, however, bowing to the "popular pressure and appeals of the Yemeni people." Political analyst Ali Saif Hasan said that he had been "sure [President Saleh] would run as a presidential candidate. His announcement in July 2005 – that he would not run – was exceptional and unusual." Mohammed al-Rubai, head of the opposition supreme council, said the president's decision "show[ed] that the president wasn't serious in his earlier decision. I wish he hadn't initially announced that he would step down. There was no need for such farce."
In December 2005, Saleh stated in a nationally televised broadcast that only his personal intervention had preempted a U.S. occupation of the southern port of Aden
after the 2000 USS Cole bombing
, stating "By chance, I happened to be down there. If I hadn't been, Aden would have been occupied as there were eight U.S. warships at the entrance to the port."
However, transcripts from the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee state that no other warships were in the vicinity at the time.
Colluding with terrorists
After 9/11, Saleh sided with America in the War on Terror
. Following the mysterious "escape" of Al Qaeda
convicts in Yemeni custody, Saleh would demand more American money and support in order to catch the fugitive.
In an investigative documentary allegations were made that Saleh's government supported and directly helped Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP
An informant for the National Security Bureau (NSB) and Political Security Organization (PSO) made these allegations.
Hani Muhammad Mujahid, 38, told Al Jazeera that "many Al-Qaeda leaders were under the complete control of Ali Abdullah Saleh", "Ali Abdullah Saleh turned Al-Qaeda into an organized criminal gang. He was not only playing with the West. He was playing with the entire world".
Richard Barrett, who was with Britain's MI6
intelligence agency before becoming director of the Al-Qaeda Monitoring Team for the UN, described Mujahid's story of his background in Afghanistan, his return to Yemen and his involvement with AQAP as "credible". The attack on the U.S. Embassy in 2008
was funded by Saleh's nephew and Al Qaeda leaders had close relationships with him. The informant also gave critical intelligence on terrorist movement, attacks and leaders but no action was taken.
Ousted from the presidency
In early 2011, following the Tunisian revolution
which resulted in the overthrow of the long-time Tunisian president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
, opposition parties attempted to do the same in Yemen. Opposition elements started leading protests and demanding that Saleh end his three-decade-long rule because of the perceived lack of democratic reform, widespread corruption and human rights abuses carried out by him and his allies.
His net worth was estimated to be between 32 and 64 billion dollars with his money spread across multiple accounts in Europe and abroad.
On 2 February 2011, facing a major national uprising
, Saleh announced that he would not seek re-election in 2013, but would serve out the remainder of his term.
In response to government violence against protesters, eleven MPs of Saleh's party resigned on 23 February.
By 5 March, this number had increased to 13, as well as the addition of two deputy ministers.
On 10 March 2011, Saleh announced a referendum
on a new constitution, separating the executive and legislative powers.
On 18 March, at least 52 people were killed and over 200 injured by government forces when unarmed demonstrators were fired upon in the university square in Sana'a
. The president claimed that his security forces were not at the location, and blamed local residents for the massacre.
On 7 April 2011, a U.S. state department cable obtained by WikiLeaks
reported the plans of Hamid al-Ahmar
, the Islah Party leader, prominent businessman, and de facto leader of Yemen's largest tribal confederation, claiming that he would organize popular demonstrations throughout Yemen aimed at removing President Saleh from power.
On 23 April 2011, facing massive nationwide protests, Saleh agreed to step down under a 30-day transition plan in which he would receive immunity from criminal prosecution.
He stated that he planned to hand power over to his vice president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi
as part of the deal.
On 18 May 2011, he agreed to sign a deal with opposition groups, stipulating that he would resign within a month;
On 23 May, Saleh refused to sign the agreement, leading to renewed protests and the withdrawal of the Gulf Cooperation Council
from mediation efforts in Yemen.
Assassination attempt and resignation
On 3 June 2011, Saleh was injured in a bomb attack on his presidential compound. Multiple C-4 (explosive)
charges were planted inside the mosque and one exploded when the president and major members of his government were praying.
The explosion killed four bodyguards and injured the prime minister, deputy prime ministers, head of the Parliament, governor of Sanaa and many more.
The man responsible for speaking at Saleh's public events was reported killed.
Saleh suffered burns and shrapnel injuries, but survived, a result that was confirmed by an audio message he sent to state media in which he condemned the attack, but his voice clearly revealed that he was having difficulty in speaking.
Government officials tried to downplay the attack by saying he was lightly wounded. The next day he was taken to a military hospital in Saudi Arabia for treatment.
According to U.S. government officials, Saleh suffered a collapsed lung and burns on about 40 percent of his body.
A Saudi official said that Saleh had undergone two operations: one to remove the shrapnel and a neurosurgery
on his neck.
On 4 June 2011, Vice President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi was appointed as acting president, while Saleh remained the President of Yemen.
On 7 July 2011, Saleh appeared for his first live television appearance since his injury. He appeared badly burned and his arms were both bandaged. In his speech, he welcomed power-sharing but stressed it should be "within the framework of the constitution and in the framework of the law".
On 19 September 2011, he was pictured without bandages, meeting King Abdullah
On 23 September 2011, Yemeni state television announced that Saleh had returned to the country after three months amid increasing turmoil in a week that saw increased gun battles on the streets of Sana'a and more than 100 deaths.
Saleh said on 8 October 2011, in comments broadcast on Yemeni state television, that he would step down "in the coming days". The opposition expressed skepticism, however, and a government minister said Saleh meant that he would leave power under the framework of a Gulf Cooperation Council
initiative to transition toward democracy.
On 23 November 2011, Saleh flew to Riyadh
in neighbouring Saudi Arabia
to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council
plan for political transition, which he had previously spurned. Upon signing the document, he agreed to legally transfer the office and powers of the presidency to his deputy, Vice President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi
The agreement also led to the formation of a government divided by Saleh's political party (GPC) and the JMP.
It was reported that Saleh had left Yemen on 22 January 2012 for medical treatment in New York City
He arrived in the United States six days later.
On 27 February 2012, Saleh formally ceded power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and stepped down as the President of Yemen, pledging to support efforts to "rebuild" the country still reeling from months of violence.
In February 2013, Saleh opened a museum documenting his 33 years in power, located in a wing of the Al Saleh Mosque
One of the museum's central display cases exhibits a pair of burnt trousers that Saleh was wearing at the time of his assassination attempt in June 2011.
Other displays include fragments of shrapnel that were taken out of his body during his hospital treatment in Saudi Arabia, as well as various gifts given to Saleh by kings, presidents and world leaders over the course of his rule.
Saleh was a behind-the-scenes leader of the Houthi takeover in Yemen
led by Zaydi Houthi
forces. Tribesmen and government forces loyal to Saleh joined the Houthis
in their march to power.
On 28 July 2016, Saleh and the Houthi rebels announced a formal alliance
to fight the Saudi-led military coalition, run by a Supreme Political Council
of 10 members – made up of five members from Saleh's General People's Congress, and five from the Houthis.
The members were sworn in on 14 August 2016.
The United Nations Security Council
imposed sanctions on Saleh in 2014, accusing him of threatening peace and obstructing Yemen's political process, subjecting him to a global travel ban and an asset freeze.
Houthi spokesperson Mohamed Abdel Salam stated that his group had spotted messages between the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) and Saleh three months before his death. He told Al-Jazeera
that there was communication between Saleh, UAE and a number of other countries such as Russia and Jordan
through encrypted messages.
The alliance between Saleh and the Houthi broke down in late 2017,
with armed clashes occurring in Sana'a from 28 November.
Saleh declared the split in a televised statement on 2 December, calling on his supporters to take back the country
and expressed openness to a dialogue with the Saudi-led coalition
On 4 December 2017, Saleh's house in Sana'a was assaulted by fighters of the Houthi movement, according to residents.
Saleh was killed on his way to Ma'rib
while trying to flee into Saudi-controlled territories after a rocket-propelled grenade struck and disabled his vehicle in an ambush
and he was subsequently shot in the head by a Houthi sniper, something his party denied.
Houthis published a video allegedly depicting Saleh's body with a gunshot wound to the head.
His death was confirmed by a senior aide to Saleh, and also by Saleh's nephew.
His death has been described as an embarrassment in a long list of Saudi foreign policy failures under Mohammad bin Salman
The attack also resulted in the death of General People's Congress
' assistant secretary Yasser al-Awadi.
Saleh's home was captured by Houthis before he fled. Officials of his party General People's Congress, while confirming his death, stated that a convoy he and other party officials were travelling in was attacked by Houthis as they fled towards his hometown Sanhan
. Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi
meanwhile celebrated his death and called it "the day of the fall of the treasonous conspiracy". He also stated that his group had "no problem" with the GPC or its members. Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi
offered condolences for his death and called for an uprising against the Houthis.
The Houthis accused the UAE of dragging Saleh to "this humiliating fate."
On 9 December 2017 he was buried in Sana'a, according to an official.
According to a Houthi commander, the burial was held in strict conditions with no more than 20 people attending.
: Grand Master Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of Unification
The UN Sanctions Panel said that by 2012 Saleh had amassed a fortune worth $32–60 billion hidden in at least twenty countries, making him one of the richest people in the world. Saleh was gaining $2 billion a year from 1978 to 2012, mainly through illegal methods, such as embezzlement
from Yemen's fuel subsidy
There is a dispute as to Saleh's date of birth, some saying that it was on 21 March 1942. See: Downing, Terry Reese (1 November 2009). Martyrs in Paradise
. AuthorHouse. ISBN 9781449008819
.. However, by Saleh's own confession, he was born in 1947 although there is no source to this claim.
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Last edited on 15 April 2021, at 02:39
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