SANAA, Aug 14, 2012 (AFP) – Yemeni troops from the elite Republican Guard force, led by the son of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, attacked on Tuesday the headquarters of the defence ministry, witnesses said.

The forces laid siege to the ministry in Sanaa before attacking it with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades, witnesses told AFP.

The attack comes a week after new president Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi ordered a restructuring of army forces, reducing the number of units under the command of rival chiefs including Saleh’s son.

The troops led by General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh which blocked the roads leading to the ministry in central Sanaa came from the main base of the Republican Guard in Sawad, south of the capital, witnesses said.

Other witnesses said that those forces exchanged fire with police on their way to the ministry.

Yemeni army reinforcements were deployed around the residence of Hadi, who replaced Saleh in an Gulf-brokered peace deal that ended 13 months of protests against the veteran leader, witnesses said.

Other reinforcements were stationed around the central bank where employees were evacuated, other witnesses said.

In a presidential decree last week, Hadi ordered the formation of a “presidential protection” force which will include three brigades from the Republican Guard.

The force will also include a brigade from the First Armoured Division led by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar who defected to the anti-Saleh opposition last year, Saba said.

Hadi assigned other brigades from the two rival units to the central and southern regions, it added.