Yemen airport reopens after standoff
Normal air traffic resumes in Sanaa after being shut down by forces loyal to half-brother of ex-President Saleh.
The airport in Yemen’s capital Sanaa has reopened after a one-day shutdown prompted by threats from loyalists of a sacked general close to the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to reports.
Forces loyal to Saleh’s half-brother, General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, who has refused to quit after being sacked by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, surrounded the airport late on Saturday.
“The airport has opened after we have received reassurances from the air force that there will be no threats to aviation,” an aviation official said on Sunday, adding that the airport staff were now preparing for the first flight to take off.
A military source said on Saturday that Ahmar, in a message to his troops, refused to leave unless the defence minister and other senior officials also step down.
He also demanded that several members of the powerful Hashed tribe, which backed defectors during last year’s anti-regime protests, be forced into exile.
Political sources in Sanaa said that Ahmar had come under pressure from several parties, including Western ambassadors in Sanaa, to retract his decision to halt air traffic.
Speaking to Al Jazeera by phone from Sanaa on Saturday, Mohammed al-Qadhi, a Yemeni journalist, described the situation in the city as “very tense”, with Saleh loyalists on standby in the southern areas.
“For more than two months now, there have been strikes and protests” demanding Ahmar’s removal”, Qadhi said.
However, on Sunday another military official said that an air force officer who lives near the airport had fired 10 shots at the control tower demanding compensation for land belonging to his tribe which was seized to expand the airport.
“This is what forced the airport to shut down,” the official said.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council expressed concern at recent events in Yemen, where followers of Saleh have been accused of hampering the political transition.