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Yemen shakes up military

From Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
April 6, 2012 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two prominent members of former President Saleh's family remain in powerful posts
  • A number of his relatives were replaced Friday
  • Anti-government demonstrators had demanded that all of Saleh's relatives be replaced
  • "This is the biggest military shakeup in modern Yemen history" embassy official says

(CNN) -- A number of relatives of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh were replaced Friday in a major shakeup of the military, though two prominent members of his family remained in powerful military posts.

Friday's moves were announced in a statement by a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington and attributed to the current president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.

"President Hadi promised major change in the military, and tonight that promise was delivered," said Mohammed Albasha, the embassy spokesman. "This is the biggest military shakeup in modern Yemen history."

One of the Salehs sacked in the shuffle was the former president's half-brother, Gen. Mohammed Saleh Al-Ahmar, who had been head of air force. He is now an assistant to the minister of defense.

Another of the sacked Salehs was the former president's nephew, Tareq Saleh, who had been head of the presidential guard.

But the changes did not affect Brigadier Gen. Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is the former president's son and head of the Republican Guard, nor did they affect Brigadier Gen. Yahya Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, the former president's nephew and head of Central Security Forces.

Anti-government demonstrators had demanded last year that all of the former president's relatives be replaced.

Friday's announcement followed an attack by militants on a military base last month that killed 70 soldiers.

Protesters had taken to the streets in mass demonstrations over the past year, calling for Saleh's departure from office. He finally stepped down in February in exchange for immunity as part of a power transfer deal brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. However, he remained president of the ruling General People's Congress party.

The restructuring of the military had been part of the negotiated power transfer deal and had been promised by the new president.

Tension escalated between Saleh and the new regime after the new president said he was planning major reforms.

Saleh had threatened to withdraw all members of his party from the national government to protest the way Hadi's administration is dealing with the political crisis in the country, which is embroiled in discord and violence.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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