* Air strike kills two Qaeda militants in south
* Insurgents fighting back, staged recent attacks
By Mohammed Ghobari
SANAA, Aug 7 Yemen's president ordered the
restructuring of some military units on Monday, aiming to curb
the powers of a son of former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh and
stabilise a country where Saleh's legacy still looms large.
The move coincided with an air strike that killed two
suspected militants linked to al Qaeda, still a major threat to
Yemen despite being driven out of its main southern strongholds
by a U.S.-backed military offensive in June.
State-owned news agency Saba said late on Monday that
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi issued decrees transferring the
command of some Republican Guards' units to a newly formed force
called the Presidential Protective Forces under his authority.
Other units from the elite Republican Guards, which is led
by Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the
ex-president's son, were placed under different regional
Lawlessness in Yemen has alarmed the United States and top
world oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which increasingly view the
impoverished Arab state as a frontline in their war on al Qaeda
and its affiliates.
The president's decrees also incorporated some army units
led by dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who broke away
from Saleh's forces after the protests began last year, into the
new presidential force or under regional command.
Ahmar welcomed the decrees and called them "brave and
patriotic decisions", Saba said, adding that the moves restore
unity to the armed forces and improve discipline.
Hadi, who had served as Saleh's deputy, took power in
February after standing as the only candidate in a presidential
election. His election came as part of a deal brokered by
Yemen's Gulf neighbours to end the political upheaval.
The president has vowed to unify the army, which is divided
between Saleh's allies and foes. In April, he removed about 20
top commanders, including a half brother of Saleh and other
Yemen's northern neighbour, Saudi Arabia, and the United
States both backed the power transition deal, partly due to
concerns over the expansion of al-Qaeda' s regional wing in a
country next to major oil shipping lanes.
Washington, which has pursued a campaign of assassination by
drone and missile against alleged al Qaeda targets in Yemen, has
backed a military offensive in May to recapture swaths of land
seized by insurgents in the southern Abyan province last year.
The army campaign was hailed as a major victory after the
area was "liberated" from Islamist fighters in June. But
residents and analysts say the militants are simply lying low
and waiting for a chance to regroup.
A local official in the southern province of al-Baydah said
on Tuesday an air strike killed two senior al Qaeda fighters
The official said the strike targetted a vehicle used by the
militants in the city of Rada'a. A tribal source told Reuters
the attack was likely by a U.S. drone.
Despite losing their territorial base, militants have since
shown their clout remains formidable, staging a series of
bombings and assassinations and attacking a southern village to
regain control of territory for the first time since they were
On Sunday, a suicide bomber struck at a wake in the southern
city of Jaar, killing at least 45 people, in the deadliest
attack since the army declared victory in June.
In June, the commander of military forces in southern Yemen,
Major General Salem Ali Qatan, was killed by a suicide bomber in
the port city of Aden.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Rania El Gamal;
Editing by Sami Aboudi and Roger Atwood)