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Yemen: airport shut down after being surrounded by ex-president loyalists

Gunmen loyal to the former leader swarm Sanaa's airport.

Yemen air force mutinyEnlarge
Members and officers of the Yemeni Air Force protest outside the residence of Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansur Hadi, as they call for the dismisal of Air Force commander Major General Mohammed Saleh, the half-brother of outgoing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa on January 23, 2012. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images)

Yemen's main Sanaa airport was closed today after being surrounded by armed forces close to Yemen's ousted leader, the Associated Press reported.

Witnesses told Reuters that the gunmen turned airline passengers back, forcing officials to ground flights and temporarily shut down operations. 

More from GlobalPost: Yemen president fires relatives of Ali Abdullah Saleh in military shakeup

Yemeni journalist Mohammed al-Qadhi described the capital as "very tense" today in comments to Al Jazeera.

The incident comes a day after Yemen's new President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi fired the head of the airforce, Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, who is also the half-brother of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, one of a string of firings meant to rid the government of officials loyal to the former regime, said Reuters

Some army troops reportedly joined the gunmen in protest of the air force head's firing, according to Reuters. The army itself is divided between those sympathetic to the uprising and those loyal to Saleh. 

Al Jazeera said there have been near-daily demonstrations calling on all Saleh relatives to step down from the government and the military.

Saleh resigned in February in response to year-long protests against his decades-long rule.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120407/yemen-airport-shut-down-after-being-surrounded-ex-president