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Yemeni Foreign Minister: Ex-president Saleh fled Yemen

Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh has reportedly fled the country aboard a Russian plane, Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyad Yassin said Saturday.

“There was information that Saleh had departed Yemen aboard a Russian aircraft that had arrived in Sanaa airport to evacuate [foreign] diplomats,” Yassin told the Saudi Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

He, however, gave no details when the plane landed in Yemen or its destination.

Two Russian planes had landed in Sanaa on Thursday to evacuate 282 Russian nationals from the war-torn country.

Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades, was forced to leave power in 2012 by pro-democracy protests.

Loyalists of the former president have been fighting alongside the Shiite Houthi militant group against forces loyal to incumbent President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The Yemeni foreign minister accused Saleh of funding the al-Qaeda group, which is largely active in southern Yemen.

“Al-Qaeda is acting upon Saleh’s desires,” Yassin said.

Yemen has remained in turmoil since last September, when the Houthis overran capital Sanaa, from which they have since sought to extend their influence to other parts of the fractious country.

Since March 26, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have been pounding Houthi positions across Yemen. Riyadh says its anti-Houthi campaign comes in response to Hadi’s appeals for military intervention.

The Houthis, for their part, have termed the offensive as a “Saudi-American onslaught”. Some Gulf States accuse Iran of supporting Yemen’s Houthi insurgency

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