Minister: Yemeni president's home under attack

2015-01-20 17:30
(Mohammed Huwais, AFP)

(Mohammed Huwais, AFP)

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Sana'a - Houthi rebels have launched an attack on the house of President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi on Tuesday, Yemeni Information Minister Nadia Sakaff tweeted.

"The president of Yemen is coming under attack from armed militias who wish to overthrow the government," Sakaff added.

Sakaff said that fighters of the Shi'ite rebel movement, which seized control of most of the capital in September, started firing on Hadi's residence at about 16:00.

Yemeni news site al-Masdar Online reported firefights between the rebels and guards at Hadi's residence.

Al-Masdar also reported that Houthi fighters had taken control of the presidential palace 4km away, the scene of fierce clashes the day before.

Hadi earlier warned that his country faced a choice "to be or not to be", state news agency Saba reported, as the Houthis maintained a siege on the prime minister's residence for a second day running.

"It may be possible to resolve and discuss this today, but it may not be possible tomorrow or the day after," the president warned his advisors and top security officials.

Hadi called for an urgent meeting of the country's political forces, including the Houthi Shi'ite rebel movement, which took effective control of Sana'a in September.

The reasons for Monday's flare-up are not clear, with the Houthis and security officials trading blame for what started the clashes.

But it came as the rebels stepped up their opposition to a draft constitution dividing the country into six federal regions, which would split up the areas of northern Yemen where they are most influential.

A senior government official - speaking on condition of anonymity - confirmed that Prime Minister Khaled Bahah's residence remained under siege by the rebels. Bahah's whereabouts were unclear.

On Monday, Houthi representatives and the interior and defence ministers agreed to a ceasefire, which the Houthis said would also involve addressing their concerns about the draft constitution.

But Information Minister Nadia Sakaff said the sides had failed to agree on the release of Hadi's chief of staff, Ahmed bin Mubarak, who was taken captive by the Houthis on Saturday.

Fragile economy

Officials and tribal leaders in bin Mubarak's native southern Yemen have said they will block oil and gas exports, a mainstay of the country's fragile economy, until he is released.

The British delegation to the United Nations said the UN Security Council would hold closed consultations later on Tuesday on the "deteriorating situation" in Yemen.

The Houthis, who seek to revive the Zaydi Shiite traditions of the historically dominant northern highlands, have expanded across much of northern and central Yemen in the past year.

They have faced increasing resistance from al-Qaeda fighters and some Sunni tribes in central and eastern Yemen since overrunning the capital in September.

As tension continued in the capital, the commander of an infantry brigade in southern Yemen escaped an ambush by suspected al-Qaeda gunmen in which five of his bodyguards were killed, a military official said.

Gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on General Yahya Abu Awja's convoy near the town of al-Qatan in Wadi Hadhramaut, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The militants have repeatedly attacked army units in the remote inland valley.

Read more on:    yemen
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