Sanaa, April 7 (Reuters): Yemeni air force officers shut down the capital’s airport today, stopping all flights in protest at the sacking of their commander, a half brother of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, an aviation official said.
A source on the military committee overseeing the armed forces’ restructuring told Reuters the air force head, Gen. Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, had refused to leave his post unless Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, an opponent of Saleh, was also fired.
The airport closure was a direct challenge to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who replaced Saleh earlier this year and is trying to push through a restructuring of the armed forces to remove Saleh allies from key posts. The armed forces split during the lengthy uprising against Saleh’s rule, with some units openly siding with protesters.
Military vehicles full of soldiers encircled Sanaa airport at dawn today, preventing flights from taking off or landing, witnesses said.
Demonstrators demanding Saleh al-Ahmar’s resignation brought several Yemeni airports to a standstill earlier this year. Hadi dismissed him yesterday and gave him the post of assistant to the defence minister. The airport closure highlights the challenges facing Hadi, whose reshuffle is upsetting the entrenched interests of Saleh’s associates.