Official: Soldiers loyal to Yemen's ex-president accused in attack

 A picture shows the defence ministry headquarters in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on August 14, 2012.

Story highlights

  • Yemen has charged 62 soldiers in the attack on the defense ministry, an official says
  • The attack on the ministry Tuesday left five people dead and 16 wounded
  • 'Political motives of certain factions are behind the attack' on the ministry, an official says

Dozens of soldiers loyal to Yemen's former president face charges of trying to take over the Ministry of Defense in an attack that left five people dead and 16 wounded, a military official said Thursday.

Sixty-two members of the Republican Guard will stand trial for their alleged roles in Tuesday's assault on the ministry in the capital city of Sanaa, said Gen. Ali al-Obaidi of the High Security Committee.

"Political motives of certain factions in Yemen are behind the attack," he said.

It was the latest attack in recent months by forces loyal Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in February after protesters took to the streets in mass demonstrations calling for his ouster.

Officials accused the former commander of Yemen's air force -- a relative of Saleh who was ousted in a military shakeup -- of leading an assault in April on the country's main airport. That was followed weeks later by an attack on the Ministry of Interior.

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The soldiers arrested this week were among roughly 200 loyal to Saleh's son, who was head of the Republican Guard, according to al-Obaidi. Dozens more soldiers believed to have participated in the attack were under investigation, he said.

The Republican Guard, meanwhile, denied its soldiers were involved, saying the attack was conducted by troops not under its command.

The attack follows a restructuring of Yemen's security forces, which was insisted upon by the new president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, as part of the negotiated deal that saw Saleh given immunity from prosecution in exchange for stepping down from office.

In the wake of the attack on the ministry, a weapons ban was implemented across the city with only those participating in government missions allowed to carry guns.

The unrest in Yemen began in 2011 as the population got caught up in the Arab Spring uprisings that swept North Africa and the Middle East. Protesters called for an end to Saleh's 33-year rule.