Yemen airport reopens, US praises president
SANAA THE airport in Yemen’s capital reopened on Sunday after a one-day shutdown over threats from loyalists of a sacked general close to former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, as Washington praised new President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.
“The airport has opened after we have received reassurances from the air force that there will be no threats to aviation,” an aviation official said.
“We are now preparing for the first flight” to take off since forces loyal to Saleh’s halfbrother, General Mohammed Saleh al Ahmar, who has refused to quit after being sacked by Hadi, surrounded the airport late on Friday.
The general manager of Sanaa International Airport, Naji al Murqab, told the defence ministry’s news website 26sep.net that “all airlines were informed that the airport will receive incoming flights after all problems and obstacles which were threatening planes were resolved.” A military source said on Saturday that Ahmar had refused to go unless the defence minister and other senior officials also step down.
He also demanded that several members of the powerful Hashed tribe, which backed defectors during last year’s anti-regime protests, be forced into exile.
Political sources in Sanaa said Ahmar had come under pressure from several parties, including Western ambassadors in Sanaa, to retract a decision to halt air traffic.
On Saturday, an airport official said the facility was closed after forces loyal to Ahmar had threatened to shoot down planes. But a military official said the decision was taken after an air force officer who lives nearby had fired 10 shots at the control tower demanding compensation for land belonging to his tribe that was seized to expand the airport.
In addition to Ahmar, Hadi also sacked Saleh’s nephew, General Tareq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, who heads the presidential guard.
At the same time, Hadi fired General Mohammed Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, leader of units in the eastern region who is loyal to General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, together with whom he defected to the anti-Saleh opposition last year.
The decisions were hailed by the United States, which has long made Yemen a major focus of its “war on terror,” as well as by the the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council states.