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“In the mayhem, we were all running in all directions. I saw the guards of the minister surrounding him and forming a human cordon. They were firing in the air,” he said.

Shortly after the attack, Hadi demoted two of Saleh’s relatives from their top positions in the Central Security forces and the interior ministry. A new commander Fadl al-Qousi was appointed as the top commander of Central Security forces, senior to Saleh’s nephew Yahia. Another Saleh in-law Mohammed al-Qousi lost his post as the commander of a police force.

Saleh stepped down in February as part of a U.S.-backed, power-transfer deal brokered by Gulf Arab countries aimed at ending political unrest in the country. It gave Saleh immunity from prosecution in return for relinquishing his power.

Since then Hadi has pledged to restructure the army and purge it from Saleh’s family members and loyalists suspected of hindering reforms.

“We are speeding up the restructuring of the army to bring back stability to the country which was on a brink of all out war,” the president’s statement said. “Yemen can’t bear more crises.”

Hadi has also vowed to step up the fight against al Qaeda, which expanded its foothold after exploiting the political and security turmoil in the wake of the uprising against Saleh.

Since the revolt erupted, inspired by other Arab Spring uprisings, al Qaeda militants overran large swaths of territory and several towns and cities in the south, pushing out government forces and establishing their own rule.

In recent weeks, the army has launched a concerted effort to uproot the militants from their strongholds — and is closely coordinating with a small contingent of U.S. troops who are helping guide the operations from inside Yemen.

Monday’s bombing is one of the deadliest attacks in Sanaa, the capital.

In June, an attack targeting Saleh’s compound last year left 11 bodyguards dead and seriously injured Saleh and five senior officials worshipping just alongside him. In 2008, an attack on U.S. embassy in Sanaa left some 19 Yemeni soldiers dead.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, was the site of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors. There have also been a spate of assaults on the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, including a 2008 bombing that killed 10 Yemeni guards and four civilians.