- NEW: Officials: Mohammed Saleh threatens to bring down aircraft if his demands aren’t met
- He is one of several relatives of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be sacked
- The military shakeup is part of promised reforms by the new president
- Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to step down in February
Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) — The former commander of Yemen’s air force has refused to step down after he was fired as part of a major military shakeup, two defense ministry officials said Saturday.
Mohammed Saleh is one of several relatives of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be replaced as part of military reforms. Yemen’s former president was forced to step down from power in February.
Mohammed Saleh, the half-brother of the former president, was given a new position as assistant to the minister of defense in Friday’s presidential decree, but has refused to leave his air force post.
The officials said he threatened to cause chaos if three opposition military officials are not removed from their military posts along with him.
Two officials at Sana’a International Airport told CNN that Saleh had warned he would bring down any civil aircraft departing or arriving the airport unless his demands are met.
Friday’s shakeup was 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.”
Another of the sacked Salehs was the former president’s nephew, Tareq Saleh, who had been head of the presidential guard.
Two prominent members of Ali Saleh’s family remained in powerful military posts however after Friday’s shakeup.
They are Brig. Gen. Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is the former president’s son and head of the Republican Guard, and Brig. Gen. Yahya Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, the former president’s nephew and head of Central Security Forces.
Minutes after the military decrees were announced, a senior opposition leader’s residence was heavily shelled.
Opposition parties condemned the attacks on the residential compound of Hameed al-Ahmar, president of the opposition Dialogue Committee.
“Attacks on al-Ahmar come in retaliation against the president’s orders to remove senior Ali Saleh aides from their military positions,” said Fowzy al-Jaradi, the spokesman for al-Ahmar’s office.
The military committee, the country’s highest security authority, warned all political and military factions to be cautious and urged them to help in defusing the current tension.
Opposition factions in Yemen have refused to participate in the anticipated national dialogue unless complete military reforms take place first.
Anti-government demonstrators demanded last year that all of the former president’s relatives be replaced.
Following months of massive street protests, Ali Abdullah Saleh 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 was part of the negotiated power transfer deal and was promised by the new president.
CNN’s Mohammed Jamjoom contributed to this report.