Military reshuffle in Yemen aimed at tackling Saleh family

The appointments were part of Hadi’s effort to block any role that could be played by Brigadier-General Ahmad Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Sunday 25/02/2018
Yemenis gather to mark the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Taiz, on February 11.(AFP)
Changing dynamics. Yemenis gather to mark the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Taiz, on February 11.(AFP)

LONDON - The internationally recognised government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi made a series of military appointments that seem aimed at curtailing the powers of relatives of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The government-controlled Saba news agency published decrees in which Hadi promoted Brigadier-General Yahya Hussein Salah to commander of the fifth military zone and Brigadier-General Hashim Abdullah al-Ahmar to commander of the sixth military zone and commander of the 141st Infantry Brigade. Both officers will have the rank of major-general.

Yemeni sources said the appointments were part of Hadi’s effort to block any role that could be played by Brigadier-General Ahmad Ali Abdullah Saleh (the eldest son of Ali Abdullah Saleh) and his cousin Major-General Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh in efforts to liberate Sana’a from Houthi rebels. Government forces, aided by a Saudi-led coalition, have been fighting the rebels for more than three years.

The sources said the last time such a military reorganisation took place, following the handover of power from Ali Abdullah Saleh to Hadi, it paved the way for the Houthis to take over Sana’a on September 21, 2014.

Tariq Saleh, a former commander of the Yemeni special forces, was thought to have been killed along with Ali Abdullah Saleh by Houthi rebels last December in Sana’a but reappeared in January in Shabwa province.

Yemeni observers said the military reshuffle came while Tariq Saleh was attempting to unite elements within the Republican Guard and former special forces to join in the military fighting against the Iran-allied Houthis. Those efforts were met with strong opposition in the Hadi camp as well as within the Islah Party, which rejects any political or military role by Ali Abdullah Saleh’s family.

Since assuming power in 2012, Hadi has been accused of pursuing a policy aimed at empowering the Muslim Brotherhood in northern Yemen, while seeking to strengthen his presence in the south with the support of the Islah Party, a policy that alienated many active anti-Houthi forces.

Hadi’s recent efforts to empower the Islah Party came after the assassination of one of its senior leaders in the southern city of Aden, the temporary base of the internationally recognised government.

Al-Masdar Online news reported that gunmen on a motorbike killed Islah Party Organisation and Rehabilitation Department Director Shawqi Kamadi in a drive-by shooting in Aden.

The website reported that a wave of assassinations targeting military, security officers and clerics in Aden had resumed but no one has claimed responsibility for the killings.

Fighting in Aden between the internationally recognised government and the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC) in January left 38 people killed and 222 wounded. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates brokered a truce but issues between the factions remain and finger-pointing continues.

There is a history of tensions between STC Supreme Commander Aidarus al-Zubaidi and Hadi, who removed Zubaidi as Aden governor last year. Zubaidi then joined forces with southern separatists.

Many southern Yemenis said they feel exploited by leaders in the north. That sentiment led to the formation in 2007 of the Southern Mobility Movement, which wants South Yemen to once again be an independent state.

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