Tuesday, Feb. 01, 2011

Ali Abdullah Saleh

A week of protests across Yemen has instilled fear in the heart of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who rushed to release several human-rights activists and journalists just days after they were detained. Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, has long been criticized for his corrupt government and is seen as a pawn in the U.S.'s counterterrorism efforts. Saleh also has a history of cutting deals with Islamic militants and insurgents of many stripes in order to keep power — a fact that the international community has been paying closer attention to since al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates mainly out of Yemen, claimed responsibility for the 2009 attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines plane en route to Detroit. Earlier this year, Yemen's parliament gave preliminary approval to a measure that would allow Saleh, who has ruled for more than three decades, to stay in power past his constitutional mandate. The news prompted protests in the country that have intensified since the Tunisian revolt.