Huthi Gunmen Surround Yemen PM after Deadly Clashes

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Shiite militiamen surrounded Yemen's premier in his Sanaa residence after firing on his convoy during deadly clashes with the army on Monday as pressure mounted on his embattled government.

The heavily armed Huthis were in control of all three entrances to the Republican Palace, a building Prime Minister Khalid Bahah has lived in since taking office in October, a government spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

The spokesman, Rajih Badi, called for an "urgent meeting" on Tuesday morning in order to create a "roadmap" to end violence, after a day of clashes between the Huthis and the army.

The Shiites appear to be tightening their grip on Sanaa after abducting an aide to President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, in the biggest challenge yet to his rule.

At least nine people were killed, including fighters from both sides, as the militia fired on Bahah's convoy, seized an army base near the presidential palace in Sanaa and took control of state media.

A ceasefire that came into effect after several hours appeared to be holding.

The Arab League, Britain and the United States expressed concerns about the clashes, which were the most intense in Sanaa since the Huthis overran it on September 21.

Since then strategically important Yemen has been wracked by unrest that has raised fears that Hadi's government will collapse and that the country will become a failed state similar to Somalia.

On Monday the Huthis claimed to have seized an army base on a hill overlooking the presidential palace.

Information Minister Nadia Sakkaf said they had also taken total control of state television and the official news agency.

- State media outlets seized -

"Yemeni satellite channel is not under state control, nor is state news agency Saba. The Huthis have completely controlled them and are refusing to publish any government statements," she tweeted.

This prompted head of the news department at Yemen state television Tawfiq al-Sharaabi to announce his resignation on Facebook. 

Sakkaf said Huthis had also fired on Bahah's convoy as he left the presidential residence but that he was unharmed.

Witnesses said the fighting erupted early Monday after the militia deployed reinforcements near the presidential palace.

The military presidential guard sent troops onto the streets surrounding the palace and outside Hadi's residence.

A security official said the army intervened when the Huthis began to set up a new checkpoint near the presidential palace. 

But a prominent Huthi chief, Ali al-Imad, accused the presidential guard of provoking the clashes.

"Hadi's guard is trying to blow up the situation on the security front to create confusion on the political front," he said on Facebook.

Tensions have been running high in Sanaa since the Huthis abducted Hadi's chief of staff, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, in an apparent move to extract changes to a draft constitution that he is overseeing.

Mubarak is in charge of a "national dialogue" set up after veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power in February 2012 following a year of bloody Arab Spring-inspired protests.

The Huthis said they had seized him to prevent the violation of a U.N.-brokered agreement that provided for the formation of a new government and the appointment of Huthis as presidential advisers.

It stipulated that in return the Huthis would withdraw from key state institutions.

- 'Spiraling out of control' - 

Mubarak's kidnapping came just before a meeting of the national dialogue secretariat to present a draft constitution dividing Yemen into a six-region federation, which the Huthis oppose.

The militants, who hail from Yemen's remote north and fought a decade-long war against the government, rejected the decentralization plan last year, claiming it divides the country into rich and poor regions.

"The Huthis' decision to kidnap Mubarak was a serious escalation that now appears to be spiraling out of control," said April Longley Alley, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Since their takeover of the capital, the Huthis, also known as Ansarullah, have pressed their advance into areas south of Sanaa, where they have met deadly resistance from Sunnis including al-Qaida loyalists.

Yemen's branch of the jihadist network, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is considered its most dangerous and claimed responsibility for this month's attack in Paris on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead.

Hadi's government has been a key ally of the United States, allowing Washington to carry out regular drone attacks on al-Qaida militants in its territory.

Comments 11
Missing 20 January 2015, 02:45

Thank you Iran!

Thumb _mowaten_ 20 January 2015, 10:51

Hey "democrat", when you're done obsessing about iran, have a look at Yemen's recent history, especially their "Arab democratic" neighbor's interventions. maybe you'll be able to get above the irrational finger-pointing. unless you're just serving an agenda and you dont care.
here's a little hint:

"In January 2009, the Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda branches merged to form Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen, and many of its members were Saudi nationals who had been released from Guantanamo Bay.[217] Saleh released 176 al-Qaeda suspects on condition of good behaviour, but terrorist activities continued."

Saudis slaughtering people in Yemen. Al Qaeda Saudis. Straight out of US prisons. Plus others released by Saleh. Yet no sign of Iran

Thumb _mowaten_ 20 January 2015, 10:55

And just in case you want to think that alqaeda, saudi, and saleh werent in bed together, you might want to continue reading

"The Yemeni army launched a fresh offensive against the Shia insurgents in 2009, assisted by Saudi forces. Tens of thousands of people were displaced by the fighting. A new ceasefire was agreed upon in February 2010. However, by the end of the year, Yemen claimed that 3,000 soldiers had been killed in renewed fighting. The Shia rebels accused Saudi Arabia of providing support to salafi groups to suppress Zaidism in Yemen.[218] Saleh's government used Al-Qaeda in its wars against the insurgent Houthis clan.[219]"

Thumb _mowaten_ 20 January 2015, 10:57

and among the things that brought today's situation, are dozens of atrocities like this one:

and still no sign of iran, except in empty rethorics like yours "arabdemocrat". so maybe you should educate yourself before pointing your finger like this.

Missing 20 January 2015, 13:37

Mowaten - you seriously do not make sense. The Yemeni army, at the time of Saleh, fought both the Houthis and the Qaeda. Both are lunatic organizations. Iran supports the Houthis and have funded their takeover of much of the country. Prior to the Houthi offensive, the Yemeni army was on the offensive and drove the Al Qaeda from most of the area it controlled. Now that the Houthis are on the offensive and taking over Sunni-majority areas, many tribes are turning to the Al Qaeda for support. So yes, thank you Iran for supporting yet another sectarian militia to take over another Arab country, de-claw the institution of governance, and inflame sectarian passions. As for your other nonsense, Saleh is a Zaidi and most of influential officers in the army are Zaidis. So perhaps, you should educate yourself.

Thumb _mowaten_ 20 January 2015, 13:48

i quote, you tell stories. i'll leave you to that.

Missing 20 January 2015, 14:05

Mowaten - u copy and paste propaganda. educate yourself. I doubt if u even knew that Saleh and much of the Yemeni leadership was Zaidis. Saleh, despite his many failings, was an Arab nationalist and did not wear his sect on his sleeve. Groups like the Houthis and Al Qaeda are blights on the people of the region and will only contribute to the rising sectarian inferno. Iran, by supporting sectarian militias in Arab countries, is fanning the flames of a conflict that will destroy our countries. So Mowaten, show me which part of my story is false (1) that Iran is supporting the Houthis (2) that the Houthis have rendered the government toothless and are taking over the country (3) that this is driving tribes to collaborate with al Qaeda to halt the Houthi advance (4) that Saleh and much of the military leadership is Zaidi? Or the facts that I wrote totally destroy your copy and paste propaganda!!!

Missing 20 January 2015, 13:24

FT - show me one place where I have sectarian attitude. your problem is that your delusions are only matched by the lack of logic displayed by Mowaten.

Missing 20 January 2015, 13:43

FT - please make sense. Where do I insult Iran? Do you deny that Iran support the Houthis who are bluntly taking over the country and making a mockery of the legitimate government and to the agreements that the yemenis arrived at to transition the country? As for the rest of your psycho-babble, I suggest that you stick to what I write and not to what you think I write. But if opposing both the Qaeda and Houthis sectarian and non-democratic agendas, then I welcome your false description.

Missing 20 January 2015, 14:24

FT - I neither report or remove your posts. Perhaps you should refrain from making false statements about others and reading people mind and deal with what was written,

Missing helicopter 20 January 2015, 04:26

Ansarullah .....
The plural of Nasrallah