Hundreds of soldiers in Yemen call for overthrowing army chiefs

Hundreds of Yemeni soldiers staged protests at several military institutions across the country on Thursday demanding the departure of their chiefs, whom they accuse of corruption.

The demonstrations come just days after Ali Abdullah Saleh formally handed power to his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi following a year of protest.

Around 500 soldiers and officers from the First Brigade of Marine Infantry, based on the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden, protested outside Hadi’s residence in the capital Sanaa, an AFP correspondent reported.

The soldiers were calling for the ouster of Brigadier General Hussein Khairan whom they accuse of corruption.

Several soldiers told AFP that the remaining officers were also staging a sit-in at their base in Socotra.

Air force soldiers held a massive rally that began outside Hadi’s residence and headed towards the air base near Sana’a International Airport, calling for the ouster of air force commander General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar.

Military sources said that protests against Ahmar, a half-brother of Saleh, were also being held at other air bases ̶ Al-Anad in the south and in Taez, Yemen’s second city.

Anti-corruption strikes have spread across several military and government departments in the impoverished Arab country, where the economy is on the brink of collapse after last year’s popular uprising and months of violence.

Saleh finally stepped down on Monday after 33 years in power after signing a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal in November.

But prior to stepping down, he carefully chose members of his regime, appointing relatives to head the country’s military and security apparatus.

In addition to his half-brother, Saleh’s son commands the elite Republican Guard troops while his nephew Yehya commands the central security services and Tariq, another nephew, controls the presidential guard.

The power transfer deal stipulates that during the two-year interim period, Hadi will oversee the restructuring of the army.

In related news, militants linked to al-Qaeda have kidnapped a colonel in the Yemeni army in the country’s troubled southern Abyan province, a military official said on Thursday.

The official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said Colonel Ahmed Saleh Jueimlan was kidnapped on Wednesday by the militants in the southern coastal town of Shaqra while en route to his home village in the neighbouring province of Bayda.

“The colonel was taken from his vehicle but his family (who was travelling with him) were allowed to continue on their journey,” said the official, adding that Jueimlan was taken to the militant stronghold of Jaar in Abyan province.

Meanwhile, a local official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that three al-Qaeda militants were killed in late night clashes on Wednesday with government troops in Abyan’s capital Zinjibar.

Last May, militants from al-Qaeda’s local Yemen branch, the self-proclaimed Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), took control of Zinjibar and several other southern Yemeni towns, triggering months of fighting with government troops that has left hundreds dead and more than 90,000 people displaced.

So far, at least three tribal-mediated negotiation attempts to secure the militants’ withdrawal have failed.