Last updated: 23 January, 2012

Mutinous troops demand Yemen Air Force chief ouster

Soldiers calling for the ouster of Yemen’s Air Force commander, who is the president’s half-brother, staged a sit-in in Sanaa on Monday, the latest in a series of mutinies rocking the armed forces.

Soldiers and officers from air bases in the capital and in the main southern city of Aden have been calling for the dismissal of General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s half brother, military officials said.

Troops from Sanaa’s Al-Dailami air base, which is located next to the airport, gathered outside the residence of Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who replaced Saleh according to a Gulf-brokered exit plan, urging him to dismiss Ahmar, witnesses said.

The mutinous soldiers, whose sit-in comes a day after Saleh left Sanaa to the United States for medical treatment, blocked access to Hadi’s residence on Sittin Avenue in the capital’s northern district, witnesses said.

They also threatened to set up tents across the area if their demands for Ahmar’s ouster are not met, the same sources said.

On Sunday, also in Sanaa, an officer hurled his boot at Ahmar during a speech by the general, sparking clashes between rebellious soldiers and the general’s bodyguards, military officials said.

The soldiers blocked entry to the air base, they said.

Republican Guard troops, which are under the command of Saleh’s son Ahmed, intervened firing rubber bullets and water cannons, wounding five soldiers, according to the same sources.

This prompted soldiers and officers in Aden’s Al-Anad airbase — built by the British who ruled south Yemen until it became independent in 1967 — to stage similar protests on Sunday, military officials there said.

And, after three weeks of protests, soldiers inside Tariq base in Yemen’s second-largest city Taez booted their commander and his deputy, whom they accused of corruption, and picked General Al-Muhaya as their new leader.

Republican Guard troops reacted by besieging that base and arresting six soldiers, the officials added.

Anti-corruption strikes have spread across several military and government departments in the impoverished country where the economy is on the brink of collapse after a year of anti-Saleh protests.

Since Saleh took office in 1978, he has carefully chosen members of his regime, appointing his relatives to head the country’s military and security apparatus.

In addition to his son and half brother, Saleh’s nephew Yehya commands the central security services and Tariq, another nephew controls the presidential guard.