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Yemeni President Hadi fires Saleh’s eldest son

Ahmed Ali Saleh and his father, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, wield major influence in army units fighting alongside the Houthi militia

Published: Updated:

Yemeni President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi – who is currently running the beleaguered Yemeni government from Saudi Arabia - has fired his powerful predecessor's son as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, a Yemeni official told Reuters on Sunday, escalating a power struggle in the war-torn country.

Ahmed Ali Saleh and his father, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, wield major influence in army units fighting alongside the Houthi militia which has been hit by three days of Saudi-led air strikes.

The eldest son of the Yemeni autocrat, who ruled the impoverished nation in the southern Arabian peninsula for over three decades before stepping down in 2012 in a Gulf-brokered transfer of power, Ahmed took up his post as the Yemeni ambassador to the UAE in 2013.

Just months before, he had been the chief of the republican guard – known as the most elite unit of the Yemeni army - before Hadi disbanded it, making Ahmed’s position redundant.

Yet while serving in the UAE as the Yemeni envoy, Ahmed still maintained a power base in his homeland. Earlier this month, hundreds of demonstrators in the Yemeni capital Sanaa called on him to run for president.

The day before, one of former President Saleh’s sons was reportedly wounded. It is still not known which of Saleh’s two sons - Ahmed and Khaled – was injured.

An Emirati source told 24 news website on Sunday that the sacking of Ahmed Ali Saleh was done in coordination and knowledge of the UAE government.

“The UAE has been clear in its stance since the beginning in supporting the legitimate [authority] that was brought about by the Gulf initiative and symbolized in President Abedrabbu Mansour Hadi, therefore the decision to appoint or sack an ambassador is up to the recognized government,” the source said.

Al Arabiya revealed on Saturday that Ahmed - whose current whereabouts are unclear - had approached Saudi authorities two days before the kingdom began launching air strikes on Houthi targets, but his proposals were rejected.

Ahmed had reportedly told Saudi authorities that he would turn against the Houthi militias in return for immunity for him and his father, in a deal that would see Saleh’s eldest son launch a coup against the Shiite group with 5,000 security personnel loyal to Saleh and 100,000 members of the Saleh-aligned remnants of the republican guard units.

But the Saudi reply was a flat out rejection, according to the information.

The southern port city of Aden is the internationally recognized Yemeni government’s last refuge, which President Hadi had designated as the temporary capital after being forced out of Sanaa by the Iranian-backed Houthi militias.

Shortly after Hadi’s plea for Gulf allies to intervene, Saudi announced it would lead a coalition of other Arab allies – with Saudi launching a series of air strikes on Houthi position early on Thursday, in a campaign known as Operation “Decisive Storm.” Warplanes from the UAE, one of the coalition partners, also on Friday struck the militia targets, a Saudi military spokesman said.

In addition to assembly a bevy of regional allies, Saudi has said it will continue the strikes until the country is safe.

The campaign “will continue until it achieves its goals for the Yemeni people to enjoy security,” King Salman said in a speech on Saturday, shortly after the opening of the 26th Arab League Summit held in Egypt, where talks on the Yemeni crisis took center stage.

Aden is currently under siege by the Houthis and Saleh army loyalists.