Saturday, April 7, 2012

Yemen airport closed after threat by forces loyal to fired commander

By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A, April 7, 2012- Close sources told that Yemen's main airport in Sana'a was closed on Saturday by forces loyal to fired Yemen military air chief, General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, Saleh's half brother.
Sources confirmed that the airport received threats by forces loyal to attack aircraft landing or taking off.
Meanwhile, one of two Yemeni military chiefs sacked by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has refused to give up his post, a military source said on Saturday.
Air force chief General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, half brother of ex-president's Ali Abdullah Saleh, refused to quit unless several senior defense ministry officials, including the minister himself, also leave, said the source.
In a message to his troops, Gen Ahmar said that the presidential decree would not be 'implemented' until Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and chief of staff Ali al-Ashwal were dismissed.
He also demanded that several members of the powerful Hashed tribe be forced into exile. The tribe backed defectors such as General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar during last year's anti-regime protests.
On Friday evening President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fired several old-regime figures and relatives of the former leader in a major shake-up of the country's military, a move meant to show he was making good on promises of reforms in the wake of his predecessor's ouster.
A statement by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said four governors and more than a dozen military generals were sacked "to make way for new officials."
The shake-up came against the backdrop of growing concerns that Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was using the loyalists to further destabilize the turmoil-wracked country. The move also came as hundreds of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets Friday demanding that Hadi purge the military of Saleh's relatives.
Among those sacked were some of Saleh's relatives, including his half brother who was the Air Force commander, and his nephew, who headed the presidential guard. In his more than 30 years as president, Saleh had stacked key security posts with relatives and loyalists.
Hadi also sacked a brother-in-law to Saleh's daughter who had headed a lucrative oil products distribution company, which was seen as an arm of the former president's vast economic wealth.
Saleh had clung to office during last year's uprising against his rule until he eventually signed a U.S.-backed, Gulf-brokered power transfer deal and handed power over to Hadi, his deputy at the time. The deal allowed Saleh to remain as head of the ruling party and granted him immunity from prosecution in return for leaving the presidency.
In February, Hadi was rubber-stamped as president in a nationwide vote in which he was the only candidate. He vowed to fight al-Qaida, which had exploited the country's yearlong turmoil to make substantial gains in the south, and restructure the armed forces, in which Saleh's loyalists and family members held key posts.
Saleh's half brother, Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, was sacked as Air Force commander and appointed assistant defense minister, an administrative post. He was replaced by the former governor of Marib province, Najeb Ali al-Zayedi.

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