Hundreds of Yemeni soldiers have abandoned their posts in the south in protest at a decision by President Abrabuh Mansur Hadi to restructure the armed forces, a military source told AFP on Wednesday.
They were protesting against a decision to incorporate into the southern military command the second infantry brigade of the Republican Guard led by the elder son of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the official said on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, state media reported that Hadi had ordered a restructuring of army forces, reducing the number of units under the command of rival chiefs including Saleh’s son.
In a presidential decree, Hadi ordered the formation of a “Presidential Protection” force which will include three brigades from the Republican Guard, official news agency Saba reported.
The force will also include a brigade from the First Armored Division led by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar who defected to the anti-Saleh opposition last year, Saba said.
Hadi assigned other brigades from the two rival units to the central and southern regions, it added.
On Wednesday, the military source said hundreds of soldiers and non-commissioned officers had begun leaving on Tuesday their camp and checkpoints in Loder in the southern province of Abyan, the scene of a recent campaign against al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Most of the mutineers belong to tribes from the Sana’a region.
Yemen is undergoing a political transition after a year-long uprising unseated the veteran Saleh and left the economy of the Arabian peninsula’s poorest country in shambles.
On June 23, Yemeni troops seized Al-Qaeda’s last bastion in the troubled southern and eastern provinces after a month-long offensive aimed at ousting the jihadists from territory they had controlled for about a year.
Taking advantage of a central government weakened by last year’s Arab Spring-inspired uprising, the militants had overrun most of Abyan province, capturing its capital Zinjibar, towns like Jaar, Shuqra and several other villages.