x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Hundreds protest for removal of general and ally of Yemen president

The defence minister, Mohammed Naser Ahmed, met with the soldiers, who said they will not leave the building until Brigadier General Ali Al Shater is stripped of his rank.

Supporters of Yemen’s president and protesters from the defence ministry clash in Sanaa.
Supporters of Yemen’s president and protesters from the defence ministry clash in Sanaa.

SANAA // Hundreds of government soldiers protested in Yemen yesterday as part of a strike to demand the removal of a general for mismanagement and corruption.

The defence minister, Mohammed Naser Ahmed, met with the soldiers, who said they will not leave the building until Brigadier General Ali Al Shater is stripped of his rank.

Both the rank and file and officers took part in the strike. About 1,000 soldiers blocked the road in front of the building and stopped Gen Al Shater from entering the premisis.

Gen Al Shater has been a general for more than 25 years and is a top ally of the outgoing president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The soldiers chanted "No corruption, no Shater after today", and other slogans over loudspeakers.

"This is an uprising against repression and corruption," said Hashim Al Thari, one of the soldiers. He added that Gen Al Shater "takes from our salaries every month and even sells our food. The man has been acting like a dictator, even jailing us in his own prison at the office".

Armed men supporting Mr Saleh's party attacked the protesting soldiers with batons and stones. Soldiers from another defence ministry department at the site fired gunshots in the air to disperse the clashes in which two people were slightly wounded.

Gen Al Shater, who is also Mr Saleh's press secretary, did not return calls for comment. The general's dismissal would need a decree by the interim leader, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

There has been a growing tide of strikes, involving industrial workers, students and soldiers, following the formation of a unity government that was set up after Mr Saleh signed the GCC-backed power transition deal last month.

Those on strike have called for the dismissal of long-time Mr Saleh loyalists or officials perceived as corrupt. Some strikes have succeeded in forcing officials out, including the chief of Yemen's national airways, who is Mr Saleh's son-in-law.

Meanwhile yesterday, an official with the administration of the US president, Barack Obama, said the government was considering whether to allow Mr Saleh into the United States for medical treatment. The official said Mr Saleh's office requested that he be allowed to receive specialised treatment in the US for injuries sustained in a June attack on his compound.

The request was being considered, and would only be approved for medical reasons, the official said.

Until now, the White House had not commented on Mr Saleh's assertion on Saturday that he would be leaving Yemen and travelling to the US.

Mr Saleh insisted he was going to help calm tensions in his country, not for medical treatment.

American officials are deeply concerned that the months of turmoil in Yemen have led to a security breakdown. The Al Qaeda branch in Yemen, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has taken advantage of the vacuum to expend its presence in southern Yemen.

Continuing battles between suspected Al Qaeda militants and Yemen's army near the southern city of Zinjibar killed five soldiers and two militants late on Sunday, military and medical sources said yesterday.

malqadhi@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Associated Press