Five people were killed When Yemen’s elite Republican Guard, led by the son of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, clashed with regular troops in a challenge to a presidential reorganization of the military, an army source said.
The attack came a week after new president Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi ordered a restructuring of army forces, reducing the number of units under the command of rival chiefs including Saleh's son.
Hundreds of members of the force led by General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh blocked the roads leading to the ministry in central Sanaa, said witnesses.
Last week, President Hadi transferred command of some Republican Guards units to a newly formed force called the Presidential Protective Forces, under his authority. Other units were placed under a different regional command.
Hadi aims to curb the clout of Brigadier General Saleh, a son of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who was forced out by an uprising last year, and stabilize a country where Saleh’s legacy still looms large.
The fighting occurred near the defense ministry after extra government troops were sent to defend the building. Shooting broke out after Republican Guard soldiers surrounded the ministry in central Sanaa.
Residents said that although Yemeni troops had regained ground around the ministry, Republican Guard soldiers were still moving around in neighboring areas.
The army source said the Guards’ action was a strike at Hadi’s authority and reflected continuing turmoil in Yemen, six months after Saleh stepped down to end protracted mass protests against his autocratic 33-year rule. Hadi, his deputy, replaced him under transition deal brokered by Yemen’s Gulf neighbors.
Lawlessness and al-Qaeda’s presence in Yemen have alarmed the United States and Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. They increasingly see Yemen as a front line in their war on jihadi militants to protect the interests of the West and its allies, including oil shipping lanes off Yemen’s coast.
In an unrelated incident on Tuesday also in Sanaa, a man carrying a bomb walked into the ministry of agriculture and was killed instantly when the device went off, an army source said.
“The bomb only affected the man carrying it, no one else was killed or wounded, and it’s still unclear who this man is.”