x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Yemeni airport reopens day after Saleh loyalists attack facility

Gunmen loyal to the country's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, seized the facility in the capital over the sacking of a military commander who was also a relative of Mr Saleh.

SANAA // Yemen's main airport reopened yesterday, a day after gunmen loyal to the country's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, seized the facility in the capital over the sacking of a military commander who was also a relative of Mr Saleh.

"The airport has reopened after we have received reassurances from the air force that there will be no risks to aviation," an aviation official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

Yemen national airline, Yemeni airways, announced in a statement yesterday its domestic and international flights had resumed from the airport. About 12 flights were either cancelled or diverted after the gunmen threatened to shoot down any aircraft.

President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi sacked the air force commander, Mohammed Saleh Al Ahmer, half-brother of the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, on Friday.

Supporters of Gen Al Ahmar, including armed tribesmen along with military troops. attacked the airport on Saturday, with tanks and armoured vehicles occupying the tarmac.

An air force official speaking on condition of anonymity said the attackers pulled out from the airport and that Gen Al Ahmer, who has refused to step down from his post, left the air force headquarters adjacent to the airport yesterday at midday.

Mr Hadi also sacked four governors and more than a dozen generals including a nephew of Mr Saleh on Friday. Mr Hadi named Rashid Al Hanad as the new air force commander. Gen Al Ahmar was moved to an administrative post at the defence ministry.

The shake-up followed growing concerns that Mr Saleh was using the loyalists to further destabilise the country. Mr Saleh formally handed over power to Mr Hadi, who was his vice president in February, in a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperations Council. The deal allowed Mr Saleh to remain as head of his party, the General People's Congress, and keep half of his cabinet ministers in place.

Some of Mr Saleh's relatives kept their positions in Mr Hadi's Friday personnel moves. His son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, retained command of the elite Republican Guard, while a nephew, Yahia Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, kept his job as the head of the Central Security Forces.

Mr Hadi's changes were hailed by the United States as well as by the GCC.

"The United States welcomes President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi's announcement of civilian and military personnel transfers as part of the ongoing political transition in Yemen," Mark Toner, US State Department acting spokesman, said late on Saturday.

"The changes signify the National Consensus Government's commitment to fulfilling the aspirations of the Yemeni people and restoring stability to the country. In spite of those who seek to derail the transition, President Hadi has demonstrated strong leadership by steadfastly implementing the agreed-upon political settlement," Mr Toner added.

GCC chief Abdullatif Al Zayani, who led mediation efforts to convince Mr Saleh to step down after 33 years in power, also said the GCC "supports" Mr Hadi and "backs all measures he takes to help Yemen exit its current crisis".

malqadhi@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by the Associated Press

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