Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has announced the restructuring of the army and defence ministry, in a bid to remove allies of former head of state Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s state television reported.
Hadi took a series of drastic decisions on Wednesday, including one scrapping the elite Republican Guard which was under the command of Saleh’s oldest son Ahmed, the broadcaster said.
It was not yet clear whether Ahmed would remain in the defence ministry.
Mohsen Khosrouf, a retired army brigadier, said Wednesday’s moves were “the most important decisions” taken by Hadi and warned, “no one can resist these decisions because they are backed by international resolutions, and any challenge will be a challenge to international community.”
Incumbent Hadi took over the reins of power in Yemen more than a year ago, after Saleh stepped down as part of a power transition agreement brokered by the US and neighbouring Gulf countries, following a year-long uprising against his rule.
Restructuring the army was a top demand by Yemenis after Saleh’s ouster in February, but Saleh is still in Yemen and many blame him for behind the scenes maneuvering to stall the new leadership’s reform efforts.
The moves on Wednesday come after thousands of Yemenis marched across the country on Friday, demanding more rapid reforms and the removal of Saleh’s aides from key government and military positions.
On Monday, a committee of National Dialogue by representatives from different political forces and NGOs said that the president should unify ranks of the army in order to proceed with national reconciliation.
Series of decrees
The president issued a number of other decrees on Wednesday, including abolishing the First Armoured Division headed by General Ali Mohssen, who split with Saleh in early 2011 as Yemen’s revolution gathered force.
The general, who defected to the mass anti-Saleh uprising last year to protect protesters, has been brought under the ministry.
Saleh’s nephew Yahya Saleh, at the head of the Central Security Forces, was also replaced, official media reported.
The ousted president’s brother Mohammed along with at least seven other deputies of chief of staff were all dismissed.
That was one of the articles in the power-transfer deal backed by US and brokered by neighbouring Gulf countries, which eased Saleh out of power and paved the way for new elections.
While political transformation remains a challenge for Yemen, it also faces the threat of al-Qaeda. The groups seized towns during the uprising but the military, with US support, managed to push al-Qaeda fighters out of their strongholds and took back control in the south.
Al-Qaeda fighters waged a wave of assassinations of top military officials in retaliation and remains a threat, with the latest attack on a top military intelligence official on Wednesday.
Washington considers al-Qaeda in Yemen as the group’s most dangerous branch.