Middle East
Yemen appointment sparks air force mutiny
Forces at four military bases demand removal of departing president's half-brother from post of air force commander.
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2012 16:18


Air force personnel based in Sanaa left their base to protest at the home of Yemen's vice-president on Monday [AFP]

A wave of mutinies demanding the removal of Yemen's air force commander has spread to four military airbases, a day after the nation's outgoing president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, left the country to seek medical treatment in the US.

Members of the air force called for the sacking on Monday of Major-General Mohammed Saleh, a half-brother of Saleh, at bases in Sanaa, Al Anad, Taiz and Hodeida.

A senior officer in the Yemen's largest airbase of Al Anad in the southern Lahj province, Abdul-Qader Sufian, said on Monday that the troops at his base were demanding the general's removal.

"No to injustice, no to dictatorship, no to corruption," one banner hanging on Al Anad's walls read.

Colonel Mohammed al-Qubati at the air base in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, said that about 200 airmen were continuing a protest that they started on Sunday.

They had been pushed from the air base by loyalist troops but had moved into the city, and were protesting at the nearby residence of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the vice-president who is set to assume presidential powers.

The officers said that the garrisons of two more bases, at Taiz in the south and at Hodeida in the west, were also protesting.

Saleh's departure

Saleh left Yemen on Sunday after passing power to Hadi and asking forgiveness for any "shortcomings" during his 33-year rule.

The US granted Saleh a travel visa, but officials said that his time there would be "limited".

"As we have indicated, the sole purpose of this travel is for medical treatment and we expect that he will stay for a limited time that corresponds to the duration of this treatment," the state department said in a statement on Sunday.

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Saleh left Sanaa airport aboard a private Saudi jet on Sunday evening, according to the Yemeni news website Mareb Press.

In an address to Yemeni media earlier in the day, Saleh said he would return to the country as head of the ruling General People's Congress party.

Protesters on Sunday tried to march to the US embassy but were stopped by Yemeni security forces.

"It is our duty... to execute the butcher," chanted the protesters gathered in Change Square, the centre of the democracy movement that has been calling for Saleh's removal since January last year.

After months of diplomatic pressure and mass protests calling for his ouster, Yemen's parliament adopted a law on Saturday giving Saleh "complete" immunity from prosecution in return for stepping down.

"To the politicians, we say there will be no immunity at the expense of the blood of our martyrs," the protesters said, referring to the hundreds killed in the government crackdown.

Saleh's immunity is part of a Gulf Cooperation Council-negotiated power transition deal aimed at ending the unrest in the country.

World Bank 're-engagement'

In another development on Monday, the World Bank lifted a funding freeze on Yemen and said it would resume relations with the new power-sharing government after closing its office in March 2011 due to political turmoil.

"The bank's re-engagement comes as a result of the improving security situation in Sanaa and the establishment of the new national unity government," the Washington-based lender said.

The World Bank said it would resume disbursements of credits and development grants to Yemen, and announced plans to conduct a social and economic impact study together with the United Nations, European Union and Islamic Development Bank.

"The bank will accelerate the implementation of key projects to restore the urgent basic services in areas affected by the crisis and to help in generating jobs," Wael Zakout, World Bank's country manager for Yemen, said.

Early presidential elections are scheduled to be held on February 21.

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