Mon, Mar 23, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Houthis seize another Yemeni city

PROXY?Persian Gulf Arab leaders rallied around embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who hopes to stage a return to power with foreign help

Reuters, ADEN, Yemen

A boy wounded in one of Friday’s suicide bomb attacks lies in a hospital bed in Sana’a, Yemen, on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Houthi fighters opposed to Yemen’s president took over the central city of Taiz in an escalation of a power struggle that diplomats say risks drawing in oil giant Saudi Arabia and its main regional rival, Iran.

Residents of Taiz, on a main road from the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, to the country’s second city of Aden, said that Houthi militias took over the city’s military airport without a struggle from local authorities late on Saturday.

Eyewitnesses in the central province of Ibb reported seeing dozens of tanks and military vehicles headed south from Houthi-controlled areas toward Taiz, while activists in the city said Houthi militia members shot into the air to disperse protests by residents.

Conflict has been spreading across Yemen since last year when the Houthis seized the capital Sana’a and effectively removed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who now seeks a comeback from his base in Aden.

The advance of the Iranian-backed group has angered Sunni Persian Gulf Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia.

The Houthi spread into mostly Sunni areas in the center and west have led to months of clashes with local tribes and al-Qaeda, raising fears that the poor and heavily armed nation at the base of the Arabian peninsula might descend into civil war.

The UN Security Council was set to discuss Yemen after Hadi, a US ally, accused the Houthi militia of staging a coup and Hadi appealed to the UN for “urgent intervention.”

Meanwhile, Iran called for dialogue, but suggested that Hadi should leave to spare the nation further bloodshed.

“The expectation is that president ... Hadi will resign rather than repeat mistakes, to play a constructive role in preventing the breakup of Yemen and the transformation of Aden into a terrorist haven,” Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian said, according to Iranian state news agency IRNA.

However, Persian Gulf Arab leaders and security officials on Saturday said that Hadi was Yemen’s legitimate ruler and that they were ready to make “all efforts” to defend the nation’s security.

“Yemen is sliding into a dark tunnel which would have serious consequences not only on Yemen, but on security and stability in the region,” said the officials, who included Saudi Minister of the Interior Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf.

“The security of Yemen and of the [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries is an indivisible whole,” it added.

Yemen’s struggle for power intensified on Thursday, when loyalists and opponents of Hadi fought gun battles in Aden.

The fighting paused by nightfall, but suicide bombings against a Houthi mosque claimed by Islamic State militants killed nearly 140 worshippers, raising tensions and leading the Houthis to announce a military mobilisation against the militants.

Yesterday, anti-aircraft guns opened fire at an unidentified plane flying over Hadi’s compound in Aden and appeared to force it away, witnesses said, in the third incident of its kind since Thursday last week.

US officials said Washington had evacuated its personnel from Yemen, including about 100 special operations forces, because of worsening security, marking a setback in US efforts against a powerful al-Qaeda branch.

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