Yemen restructures army, limits Saleh son's powers

In move that seeks to unify divided army, Yemeni president limits powers of son of ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Yemen president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi  390 (photo credit: Mohamed Al-Sayaghi / Reuters)
Yemen president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi 390
(photo credit: Mohamed Al-Sayaghi / Reuters)
SANAA - Yemen's president ordered the restructuring of some military units on Monday, aiming to curb the powers of a son of former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh and stabilize a country where Saleh's legacy still looms large.
The move coincided with an air strike that killed two suspected militants linked to al-Qaida, still a major threat to Yemen despite being driven out of its main southern strongholds by a US-backed military offensive in June.
State-owned news agency Saba said late on Monday that Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi issued decrees transferring the command of some Republican Guards' units to a newly formed force called the Presidential Protective Forces under his authority.
Other units from the elite Republican Guards, which is led by Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the ex-president's son, were placed under different regional command.
Lawlessness in Yemen has alarmed the United States and top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which increasingly view the impoverished Arab state as a frontline in their war on al-Qaida and its affiliates.
The president's decrees also incorporated some army units led by dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who broke away from Saleh's forces after the protests began last year, into the new presidential force or under regional command.
Ahmar welcomed the decrees and called them "brave and patriotic decisions", Saba said, adding that the moves restore unity to the armed forces and improve discipline.
The president has vowed to unify the army, which is divided between Saleh's allies and foes. In April, he removed about 20 top commanders, including a half brother of Saleh and other relatives.
Yemen's northern neighbour, Saudi Arabia, and the United States both backed the power transition deal, partly due to concerns over the expansion of al-Qaida' s regional wing in a country next to major oil shipping lanes.
Washington, which has pursued a campaign of assassination by drone and missile against alleged al-Qaida targets in Yemen, has backed a military offensive in May to recapture swaths of land seized by insurgents in the southern Abyan province last year.