Three Yemeni fighter jets were destroyed by explosions at an air base on Sunday as fighting between government and anti-government forces continues, military sources say.
Reuters reports that a large explosions shook the al-Daylami base outside the Yemeni capital Sanaa, causing the adjacent Sanaa International Airport to be closed as a precautionary measure. Flights were diverted to Aden airport in the south of the Arabian Peninsula country.
AFP reports that three jets were destroyed and other damaged, apparently by explosives planed in the aircraft. “Unknown assailants appear to have planted explosive devices in the fighter jets which were loaded with ammunition in preparation for a combat mission planned for Monday morning,” a military official said on condition of anonymity.
“Three fighter jets went up in flames and several others were damaged by the explosions,” said an aviation official from Sanaa’s International Airport. The official told AFP that the aircraft were due to strike targets 40 kilometres south of Sanaa over the Arhab region.
However, Yemen’s Defence Ministry said several mortar shells had hit al-Daylami, destroying at least two fighter jets and a small ammunition storage facility, while a military source told Al Jazeera that explosives were planted inside 12 fighter jets, destroying three.
It is not clear what type of aircraft were destroyed. According to the IISS The Military Balance 2011, the Republic of Yemen’s air force has 18 MiG-29s, ten F-5E Tiger IIs, 15 MiG-21s and 30 Su-17/20/22 fighters in service.
Yemen’s capital has seen weeks of fighting between troops loyal to President Abdullah Saleh and tribesmen who back protesters demanding an end to of his 33-year rule. Tribesmen in areas outside the capital have complained of months of attacks by the air force against their towns.
Tribal sources said earlier on Sunday that four people, including three children, were killed overnight when troops shelled the tribesmen’s region north of the capital, hitting a petrol station.
Thirteen others were wounded in the attack in the Arhab area, some 40 km from Sanaa.
In the city of Taiz, south of Sanaa, a doctor said one civilian was shot dead and two were wounded by government forces who fired at a car. The incident occurred in a district where there have been clashes between government forces and pro-opposition tribesmen.
Months of anti-government protests have divided impoverished Yemen, pushing the Arabian Peninsula country to the verge of civil war and a humanitarian crisis.
Neighbouring oil giant Saudi Arabia and the international community fear growing lawlessness in Yemen is giving al Qaeda’s regional wing scope to plan and potentially launch attacks in the region and beyond.
The ruling party is likely to name Saleh’s deputy as its presidential candidate if a transfer of power is carried out under a Gulf-brokered power transition plan, Deputy Information Minister Abdu al-Janadi said on Sunday.
“The General People’s Congress intends to announce Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as its candidate in the presidential election in the coming period,” Janadi told reporters.
The U.N. Security Council issued a resolution on October 21 deploring the fighting and calling on Saleh to leave office in line with the transition plan.
Saleh has dug his heels in, surviving an assassination attempt and three times agreeing to sign the Gulf plan only to back out at the last minute.
Violence has showed no sign of easing.
In the southern port city of Aden, one soldier was killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb targeting their patrol on Sunday, a security official said. Islamist militants had probably planted it, the official said.
Soldiers, security officials and tribesmen fighting militants are frequently attacked in the country’s south, where government control has been weakened by political upheaval.