Yemeni Houthi rebels overtook President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s palace home on Wednesday but stopped short of toppling him. They have taken up guard outside the palace but would not go in, saying the president is safe and can leave if he wants.
“President Hadi is still in his home. There is no problem, he can leave,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi politburo, told Reuters.
The Houthi fighters defeated the presidential guards in fierce gun battles and artillery bombardments that have set the country on edge, and taken against the background that the United States is currently carrying out drone strikes against ISIS and al-Qaeda militants in the impoverished Arab country, the country is now in some disarray.
Sea, air, and land crossings into Yemen’s southern port city of Aden were closed on Wednesday, and manager of Aden airport told reporters that the local security committee approved the closure till further notice. The committee has also released a statement that condemns the Houthi attacks in Sanaa, saying it is an “aggressive coup on the president personally and on the political process as a whole.”
Since the Houthi militiamen seized control of the palace and posted guards outside his residence, it is not known if the president is still trapped within the palace or elsewhere, but his whereabouts is currently unknown and he has not made any remarks since the attacks on his capital began.
The United States considers President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi as a key counter-terrorism ally, and the rebels attacks on his capital is giving the US some concerns. Houthi’s most senior leader, Abdel Malik al-Houthi said in a televised speech that the advances made by his fighters are only warnings for Mr. Hadi to accelerate political changes demanded by the group – and never an attempt to depose him – even though “all necessary measures will be open” if the president fails to act in this regard.
The latest attack in Sanaa claimed eight lives and has left many residents paralyzed with fear in Yemen. The Houthis’ rise began in September, when Houthi fighters swept into Sana, seizing control of crucial government installations and vowing to force Mr. Hadi’s government to carry out political and economic reforms. The Houthi movement — which began as an activist group seeking greater rights for Yemen’s Zaydi Shiite minority and fought six wars against the central government — has consolidated its control in the capital and beyond.