SANAA : Yemen on Monday sacked the commander of its police special forces, a day after clashes broke out as they tried in vain to disperse a rebel sit-in blocking the road to Sanaa airport.

General Fadl al-Qawsi was replaced by General Mohammed al-Ghadra, an official close to the interior ministry told AFP, as thousands of Huthis stepped up the protest action. But the reason for Qawsi’s dismissal was not made clear.

The Huthi rebels, also known as Ansarullah, said one demonstrator was shot dead and a number of protesters received gunshot wounds when police hurled tear gas canisters and deployed water cannon against demonstrators Sunday.

AFP was unable to confirm the casualties from independent sources.

The special forces unit, known previously as the central security force, was loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who stepped down on February 2012 following a year of protests against his autocratic rule.

The Huthi rebels have been pushing for the government’s resignation, accusing it of corruption. They have also been demanding more powers within state institutions.

Huthi protesters blocking the airport road were Monday only 100 metres (yards) away from the interior ministry, as their numbers grew despite the attempted crackdown, an AFP correspondent reported.

Protesters have pitched new tents blocking access to the electricity and telecommunications ministries on the airport road, where they have been demonstrating for weeks.

Both ministries were closed on Monday.

“Outlaws have blocked access to the ministries of electricity and telecommunications and forced employees to leave,” a Supreme Security Committee spokesman said on state news agency Saba.

Huthi rebels surrounding Sanaa were also on Monday preventing government vehicles from entering or leaving the capital, witnesses told AFP.

Rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi was expected to deliver a speech later the same day.

Ansarullah have so far rejected overtures from President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi who has offered to name a new prime minister and reduced a disputed fuel price hike.

Both concessions were core demands of the Huthis who launched their protest movement on August 18, after battling troops and tribes for months over the control of key cities north of Sanaa.

Analysts say the rebels are trying to establish themselves as the dominant political force in the northern highlands, where Shias are the majority community.