The face of veteran Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to the masthead of the leading state-owned daily on Friday after loyalist gunmen besieged the newspaper’s offices demanding its reinstatement.
Saleh’s photograph appeared on the front page of al-Thawra alongside an apology to the strongman, who in November finally agreed to step down later this month after holding power since 1978.
“Apologies from the Yemeni people to President Ali Abdullah Saleh,” said the paper, which on Wednesday dropped his picture for the first time.
The move prompted loyalist gunmen to lay siege to the paper’s offices, preventing distribution of Thursday's edition, which also had the photograph missing.
Yemen’s state-owned press has sharply changed its tone since the formation of an opposition-led national unity government in December under the terms of the transfer of power deal which Saleh signed the previous month.
Both al-Thawra and al-Gomhoriah, the official daily of Yemen’s second-largest city Taez, have repeatedly criticised Saleh and his party since new editors were appointed by Information Minister Ali Ahmed al-Amrani, an opposition nominee.
The papers had previously been bastions of loyalism in the face of the nationwide protests which erupted against Saleh’s regime in January last year triggering months of bloodshed.
In a sign of the persistent tensions between loyalists and the opposition, Amrani was the target of an assassination attempt as he was leaving government headquarters in Sanaa on Tuesday. He escaped unharmed.
Saleh himself arrived in New York last Saturday to receive medical treatment for blast wounds which he sustained in a June bombing at the presidential palace.
U.S. officials have said he will not return until after an election for his successor that is scheduled for Feb. 21.