Saleh survived a bomb attack in his palace mosque in 2011.
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Ali Abdullah Saleh survived for decades as Yemen's strongman, the master of shifting alliances, playing both sides – or flipping sides freely – in the multiple guerrilla conflicts and civil wars that tore apart his impoverished nation throughout his life.Even while taking millions in U.S. aid, Saleh was suspected of striking deals with the militants and enlisting them to fight his battles.As president, Saleh fought multiple wars against the Houthi rebels in their heartland in northern Yemen, each time failing to crush them completely.Then in recent months, Saleh's alliance with the Houthis fell apart as the rebels moved to weaken him and Saleh flirted with switching to side with the Saudi-led coalition.Saleh rose to power in an era when Yemen was divided into two nations, north and south. Within a month, Saleh was North Yemen's president, backed by Saudi Arabia.Marxist South Yemen was a Soviet client state, so Saleh reached out to Western leaders to leverage aid for North Yemen.In 1990, with the Soviet Union unraveling, Saleh negotiated unity with the south, ensuring his place as the president.
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