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Middle East

Tension in Yemen amid coup fears

President Hadi removes heavy weaponry from the capital following fears his predecessor is plotting to topple him.

Last updated: 17 Jun 2014 12:52
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Ali Abdullah Saleh ruled Yemen with an iron fist for more than three decades [Reuters]

Yemen's president has removed heavy artillery from the outskirts of the capital, following fears the former president was plotting a coup.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi removed the heavy weaponry stationed on hills surrounding Sanaa on Monday amid reports his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh was planning to topple him from power.

An army official told the AFP news agency the military had dismantled "heavy artillery and rockets that were positioned on hills around Sanaa following information of a coup plot" by Saleh loyalists who "continue to infiltrate the army".

Heavy weapons had been stationed on the hills around Sanaa to secure the city from an al-Qaeda insurgency, a northern rebellion and a southern separatist movement.

A source close to Hadi told AFP that weapons had been stored at the large Saleh mosque, and were being guarded by gunmen loyal to the former leader.

Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades, still heads the influential General People's Congress (GPC) party which holds half of the government's ministries and has bitterly divided its members between Hadi and himself.

Also on Monday, clashes between government forces and Shia Houthi rebels killed dozens in northern Yemen, 24 hours after a ceasefire between the two sides collapsed.

Fighting in Jabal al-Dhine, a mountainous region 50km north of the capital Sanaa, left at least three soldiers dead according to AFP, while clashes in Hamdan in Sanaa province killed 12 tribal fighters and 11 Houthis.

The Houthis have been battling the central government for years and are suspected of trying to broaden their sphere of influence as Yemen prepares to split into a federal state of six regions as part of a planned transition to democracy.

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