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Yemen airport closed over attack threats

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Facility shut down after forces loyal to sacked air force chief surround Sanaa airfieldThe airport in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, has been shut down after forces loyal to a military ally of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh threatened to attack landing and departing aircraft, according to an airport source.

The source said Saturday's closure came after the airport was surrounded by loyalists of the air force chief, General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, a Saleh half-brother who has refused to step down after being sacked by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the current president.

"No aircraft has taken off or landed since these forces made their threat late on Friday," the source said, adding that the troops surrounding the airport were backed by members of the Hamdan tribe that supports Saleh.

The source, speaking on condition of anoymity, said the men were led by Naji Jamaan, a Hamdan tribal chief.

Speaking from Sanaa, Mohammed al-Qadhi, a Yemeni journalist, described the situation in the city as "very tense", with Saleh loyalists on standby in the southern areas.

Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar has refused to step aside unless several senior defence ministry officials also leave, a military source said on Saturday.

In a message to his troops, Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar said Hadi's presidential decree would not be "implemented" until Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, the defence minister,  General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and Ali al-Ashwal, the chief of staff, left their posts.

"For more than two months now, there have been strikes and protests" demanding Ahmar's removal", Qadhi said on Saturday.

The move against Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar comes amid almost daily protests demanding the resignations of all Saleh relatives from the government and the military.

Among other things, he has demanded that several members of the powerful Hashed tribe be forced into exile. The tribe backed defectors during last year's anti-government protests.

In addition to Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, Hadi dismissed on Saturday the head of the presidential guard, General Tareq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh.

There had already been calls from within the air force for Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar to go.

The military source said he had turned down the command of the 37th battalion of the Republican Guard based in the southeast province of Hadramawt.


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