Skip to main content

Yemeni president makes first TV appearance since attack

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh speaks from Saudi Arabia after being injured in an attack last month.
  • Ali Abdullah Saleh is being treated in Saudi Arabia for burns
  • He said he's had eight successful surgeries
  • Yemen has been embroiled in anti-government demonstrations for months

(CNN) -- Yemen's badly burned president, appearing on television in his homeland on Thursday for the first time since he was injured in an attack last month, said he's on the mend, welcomed talks with opposition forces and indicated his resolve to strike back at his attackers.

"We will face the challenge with a challenge," said Ali Abdullah Saleh, speaking from Saudi Arabia.

Saleh said he had eight successful surgeries there, but the president, whose singed face was dark and who sat stiffly upright in a buttoned-up robe, didn't specify when he would go back to Yemen -- a return his supporters anticipate but his opponents hope will never occur.

His words transfixed TV viewers in Yemen, where streets were deserted as residents watched their president deliver his words.

But they heard a damaged voice and saw an injured man, a contrast to the resolute persona the longtime ruler exuded. And as he spoke, gunfire was heard near the presidential palace in a district known as Hadada. It was not clear whether it was celebratory or hostile fire.

"I send my greetings and appreciation for the Yemeni people inside Yemen and outside Yemen on their stance in facing the challenge that happened in the first Friday of Rajab done by the elements of the terrorism," he said, making reference to the June 3 attack on the presidential compound.

Saleh and other senior Yemeni officials were badly injured in the attack in the presidential palace. His embattled and unpopular rule had been enduring months of anti-government protests and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militant activity.

There had been moves for the Saleh government and opposition forces to forge an agreement to transfer power, an effort that would lead to his departure. But those efforts had failed.

Saleh said participation with the opposition is welcomed within the framework of the country's laws.

There were several deaths in the June attack, and other senior officials were treated in Saudi Arabia for injuries, including the prime minister.

CNN's Yousuf Basil and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.