x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Nephew of Saleh quits Yemen army

Brigadier General Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, who earlier headed the presidential guard, relinquished his new post as head of the 3rd Republican Guard brigade.

SANAA // A nephew of former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh has resigned from his post as commander of an elite military unit, officials said yesterday, part of a drive by the country's new US-allied government to unite its army to fight Al Qaeda.

The UN envoy Jamal Benomar said Brigadier General Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, who earlier headed the presidential guard, relinquished his new post as head of the 3rd Republican Guard brigade.

The unit is one of the strongest and best-equipped brigades in the military and overlooks the capital.

"General Abdulrahman Al Halili has taken over from Tariq and is now fully in charge of the 3rd Brigade," a Yemeni official said, confirming the resignation.

Defence ministry officials said Gen Saleh had retired and would not be taking other military posts.

His departure is a success for President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi who has been trying to draw a line under more than a year of political turmoil in Yemen by distancing his predecessor's relatives from power and restructuring the army.

A growing Islamist insurgency in Yemen is of serious concern to the US and Saudi Arabia, who both fear that political infighting could give Al Qaeda's regional wing a foothold near oil shipping routes through the Red Sea.

Mr Hadi, who had been Mr Saleh's vice president, was elected president unopposed in February under a power transition plan brokered by the GCC to end a year of protests demanding Mr Saleh's resignation.

However, his drive to remove Mr Saleh's relatives and allies from power has faced stiff resistance.

He replaced nearly 20 officers last month, including air force chief Mohammed Saleh Al Ahmar, the former president's half-brother. General Al Ahmar had initially refused to step down, besieging the capital's airport and grounding all flights in protest at the decision to demote him. He later accepted his new post as assistant to the defence minister.

Mr Benomar, who helped push through the plan under which Mr Saleh left office after more than a year of popular unrest, persuaded the former president to secure his half-brother's compliance with Mr Hadi's directive, a government official has said.

Mr Saleh's son Ahmed and nephew Yahya remain in place as heads of other important military units.