Yemen’s military chief fired as militia digs in: reports

SANAA/ADEN: Yemeni President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi has fired his armed forces chief of staff as Shiite militiamen delay their pullout from the capital they seized in September, media reports said Monday.

Under a presidential decree, Gen. Hussein Naji Hadi Khairan replaces Ahmad Ali al-Ashouel, who moves to the Majlis al-Shura (consultative council), the lower chamber of parliament. No reason was given for the sacking of Ashouel late Sunday.

But the move comes as the impoverished state is embroiled in political and military chaos and as Ansarullah – a Houthi militia – delays a pullback it agreed to under a U.N.-brokered accord in September.

Five explosions targeting Ansarullah positions in Sanaa suburbs wounded eight people Monday, the Defense Ministry website reported.

The ministry cited the city’s police chief Gen. Abderrazak al-Moyaed as saying the blasts came at homes and positions of the “popular committees” – Ansarullah and its supporters.

He said another two devices were defused, and that a search was underway “for other bombs the terrorists may have planted to attack the popular committees.”

The website said that of the eight wounded, three were in a serious condition in hospital.

The Houthi militia swept south from its rugged northern stronghold to capture Sanaa before then extending its influence into central and west Yemen.

The unopposed Ansarullah offensive meant it was able to take over several government arms depots, including those housing heavy weapons.

This further eroded the authority of the mostly Sunni state, already weakened by persistent attacks from Al-Qaeda militants in the south and east and by a southern separatist movement.

Also Monday, Yemeni security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at separatist demonstrators in the southern port city of Aden, leaving some of them injured, witnesses said.

Supporters of the Southern Movement, which wants independence from Sanaa, had called for a “Day of Rage” and blocked roads across Aden.

South Yemen was independent between the end of British colonial rule in 1967 and 1990, and a succession attempt four years later sparked a civil war, before it was overrun by northern troops.

Southerners still complain of discrimination by Yemen’s Sanaa-based government.

The demonstrators in Aden clashed with police Monday, and some of them suffered injuries, according to witnesses, who were unable to put a figure on the number of casualties.

Armed supporters of the Southern Movement were meanwhile suspected of being behind the kidnapping of five Yemeni soldiers in the neighboring province of Dhaleh, a government official said.

The motive of the kidnappers was to pressure the government into releasing a Southern Movement member who had been arrested in Aden last month, the official told AFP.

Agence France Presse