NEW YORK – The embattled president of Yemen arrived Saturday in the United States for medical treatment for burns he suffered during an assassination attempt in June.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived at an unspecified location in the United States, according to the country’s foreign press office. His journey had taken him from Oman, through London.
The one-line Yemeni statement said Saleh was in the U.S. for a “short-term private medical visit.” His staff has said he is in the United States to be treated for injuries suffered during the assassination attempt. He was burned over much of his body and had shards of wood embedded into his chest by the explosion that ripped through his palace mosque as he prayed.
After months of unrest, Saleh agreed in November to end his 33-year-rule of the Arabian state.
His trip to the U.S. comes as Yemen, a key counterterrorism partner, prepares for an election on Feb. 21 to select his successor.
Human Rights Watch, which says it has documented the deaths of hundreds of anti-government protesters in confrontations with Saleh’s security forces, was outraged by the Yemeni president’s travel to the U.S. for medical treatment.
“It’s appalling that President Saleh arrives here for first-rate medical treatment while hundreds of Yemeni victims, assaulted by his security forces, have neither proper medical care nor justice for the crimes they’ve suffered,” Balkees Jarrah, international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch, said in an emailed statement.
It is unclear how long Saleh intends to remain in the U.S. In a speech before he left Yemen for Oman a week ago, he promised to return home before the election, but the U.S. and its allies have pressured Saleh to leave Yemen for good.