SANAA, Yemen (AP) – Yemen’s president fired Monday the head of the special forces following a botched attempt to disperse a sit-in of Shiite rebels that blocked the airport road as the protesters continue to obstruct main roads in the capital, security officials said.
A senior security official said President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi will appoint a replacement later in the day and that an interior ministry official, Major General Mohammed Ghadra, has already been picked for the job.
Security forces moved a day earlier to disperse the sit-in, which had been an escalation by the rebels against the government.
Scores of protesters blocked the airport road and two main roads into the capital from the west and south.
Security forces, using water cannons, tear gas and bulldozers, moved in to disperse the sit-in.
But after an hour of clashes, the security forces retreated, and the rebel supporters held their ground. One person died from tear gas inhalation, hospital officials said.
The security official said the action against the protesters was “flustered” and the move didn’t appear well coordinated with the government.
Rebel leaders had criticised the decision to disperse their sit-in, calling the decision “foolish”.
The rebels want the president to fire the government and reinstate fuel subsidies.
Despite a decision by Hadi to replace the current prime minister and dismiss the Cabinet, the rebels refused to budge, demanding a stronger role in the decision making process.
On Monday, security officials said the rebel demonstrators expanded their sit-in on the airport road, advancing to the near the strategic Interior Ministry.
The officials said roadblocks imposed by the rebels on routes leading to the city from Taiz and another province prevented security and military vehicles from entering the capital.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media.