SANAA - Yemen's Houthi militia seized a top official on Saturday and threatened unspecified further steps to derail a proposed new constitution in a wrangle for power that threatens to bring down the government, raising fears al-Qaida could benefit.
The draft constitution, formally launched on Saturday, aims to resolve big regional, political and sectarian differences in Yemen by devolving authority to regions, but has been bitterly opposed by the Houthis who fear it will dilute their power.
Western and Gulf Arab countries worry about insecurity in Yemen because of its border with top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and presence of an al Qaeda wing that has claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris.
However, political chaos has accelerated since the Houthis, who demand more rights for the country's Zaydi Shi'ite Muslim sect, seized Sanaa in September and advanced into central and western areas where Sunni Muslims predominate.
The group said its gunmen "arrested" Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, office director for President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and a former nominee for prime minister, early on Saturday to stop him attending a meeting on the constitution.