Separate military forces feud
Military forces loyal to the government defended the building, with civilians caught in the crossfire. This most recent act by military came on the heels of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi’s visit to Saudi Arabia, sparking rumors of a military coup. The clashes are the result of Hadi’s military reforms, meant to alter current power dynamics—reducing former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s influence over the military, particularly those forces loyal to Saleh.
Bullets whistled around the Bab al-Yemen area, near the Defense Ministry, starting Tuesday morning around 6 a.m. Security forces were dispersed in the streets—tanks and military trucks with positioned snipers could be seen throughout the area. Tear gas was also detected.
Sixty-two Republican Guard Troops from Brigade 2 were arrested for their involvement.
“They will be held accountable,” Military Committee spokesman Ali Saeed Obaid said. The confrontation is over and settled, he said.
The Republican Guard is an elite unit of the Yemeni military. Hadi tried to weaken the Saleh family’s grip on power by transferring some Republican Guard members to a newly created presidential protection force.
Disgruntled members stormed the ministry to signal their refusal to join the presidential protection forces, according to Mohammed Yahiya, a soldier stationed near the Ministry of Defense.
“The two sides exchanged fire.”
In a statement released Tuesday, the European Union called on all political factions in Yemen to respect the institutions of the state and to implement President Hadi’s decisions.
Sheikh Waleed Al-Dhafiri of Tadamon district called the situation awful. He said the clashes led locals in the district to flee the area, fearing random shelling.
Al-Dhafiri said military police expelled Republican Guard affiliates who surrounded the Ministry of Defense compound, demanding their salaries be paid.
“The finance minister cut their pay due to political hostility and wrangles,” Al-Dhafiri said.
Al-Dhafiri condemned Tuesday’s clashes, saying, “This sort of retaliation is wrong and hurts all the people of the nation.”
Power struggles involving the military in the wake of the Arab Spring movements are not unique to Yemen. After the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) led the country. Although the arrangement was intended to be temporary—SCAF’s rule was to end once a democratically elected government was chosen—the post-revolution realities have been less clear. Newly elected president Mohammed Morsi fired his defense minister and military chief of staff. He also retired chiefs of the air force, air defense and navy, according to various news reports.
The recent military shakeup in Yemen mirrors Morsi’s efforts in some regards—with a significant difference being Morsi does not have to consider his predecessor’s influence, while Hadi must contend with Saleh’s. Saleh was granted immunity in the GCC brokered deal that ended his 33-year rule.