Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Airlines cease flights to Yemen as militias clash

AP, SANA’A, Yemen

Foreign airlines halted flights to the main international airport in Sana’a because of heavy fighting between Shiite rebels and Sunni militias in the Yemeni capital, the state civil aviation authority said yesterday.

Battles erupted a day earlier between the Shiite rebels, known as the Hawthis, and gunmen loyal to the Islah Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Yemen. The two sides fought in Shamlan, a suburb of Sana’a that is home to the Islamic Iman University, an institution seen as a breeding ground for Sunni militants.

Amid the fighting, the Hawthis hit the headquarters of state television with mortars on Thursday evening. Thousands have fled their homes in the area.

In a statement carried on the state news agency SABA early yesterday, the civil aviation authority said foreign airlines suspended flights to Sana’a airport for 24 hours, after which they will review the security situation.

The Hawthis have emerged as a powerful new player in the chronically unstable, impoverished nation. Over the past months, their fighters have scored a string of victories in the north, defeating Islamist fighters, bringing them to the doorstep of Sana’a.

In the capital, they have led a campaign of street protests calling for the replacement of the Yemeni government and economic reforms. One of their protest camps is set up on the main road leading to the airport.

The Hawthis’ opponents accuse them of being a proxy for mainly Shiite Iran and of seeking to grab power, a claim the group denies.

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