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Official: Yemeni leader in Saudi Arabia for 'simple checkups'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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When will Yemen violence end?
  • Official: President Ali Abdullah Saleh's health is "very good and this is an ordinary visit"
  • Saleh is in Saudi Arabia, according to the ruling party spokesman
  • Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has taken over, a Yemeni official says

(CNN) -- The Yemeni president traveled to Saudi Arabia for "simple checkups," a ruling party spokesman said Sunday, amid reports that he was undergoing treatment following an attack on his palace.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh's health is "very good and this is an ordinary visit," said Tareq Shami Saleh, the spokesman. "Saleh is not sick and he will be back in Yemen soon."

Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi took over Ali Abdullah Saleh's responsibilities as president Saturday, Yemeni government spokesman Abdu Ganadi said.

The power transfer comes as a source close to the Saudi government said that the Yemeni ruler arrived in Riyadh around midnight Saturday after being hurt in an attack on a mosque in his palace a day before.

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The Saudi source said Saleh was immediately taken to a nearby hospital after his plane landed in Saudi Arabia.

A senior Yemeni government official had told CNN that Saleh was fine after a slight head injury in Friday's attack, and he gave a nationally broadcast speech later that night.

But Saleh's medical condition is worse than originally thought, according to the Saudi source.

In response to that attack, Yemeni security forces on Friday pounded the home of Sadeq al-Ahmar, the tribal leader whose supporters are suspected of being behind the presidential palace offensive.

The flurry of shelling left 10 people dead and 35 others wounded, according to Fawzi Al-Jaradi, an official with Hamil al-Ahmar, a Hashed tribal confederation led by Sadeq al-Ahmar.

Demonstrators have demanded Saleh's ouster for months, and fighting between Yemeni government forces and Hashed tribesemen has spiked considerably in recent weeks.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, which consists of representatives from six neighboring nations, helped broker a pact that involved Saleh stepping down from power -- but that agreement ended up breaking down weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the popular unrest in the impoverished Arab nation continued over the weekend.

Islamic militants killed 10 soldiers in two ambushes in Yemen, a senior Interior Ministry official told CNN.

The attacks were on two separate ambushes on the soldiers' convoys -- one attack late Saturday and one early Sunday. Both attacks happened in Abyan Province.

"The attack is the seventh in more than five days by Islamic militants against government forces," the official said. "Over 50 soldiers have been killed in the last 10 days of fighting."

The senior official did not want to be named because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

CNN's Nic Robertson, Mohammed Jamjoom, Hakim Almasmari, Chris Lawrence, Jamie Crawford and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

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