Running battles in Yemeni capital described by official as 'attempted coup'

Shiite Houthi rebels stage attack on PM, face off against army hours after meeting to discuss ceasfire

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
January 19, 2015 15:15
1 minute read.
Houthi fighters

Houthi fighters. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Yemeni army has engaged Houthi militants in deadly combat near the presidential palace in the capital of Sanaa, Reuters reported on Monday.

In what appears to be the most intense fighting since the Iran funded Shiite rebels took control of the troubled Arab country's seat of power in September, small arms and artillery has erupted hours after a ceasefire between the Houthis and government representatives was supposedly reached.

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The Houthis had warned that they would take action if they were not given a greater share of power in the country's new constitution, whose initial purpose when  it was passed last year was to quell internal upheaval by addressing sectarian division.

The Houthis apparent cause is to win more rights for the country's Zaydi Shia sect who they say are repressed. After their September capture of the capital, which is situated in what is considered Sunni territory, an agreement was reached to draw up the now imperiled constitution.

The new constitution's failure to secure stability may have been a forgone conclusion however since its implementation was meant to occur in parallel to the Houthi militants' withdrawal from the capital. The Houthis remained entrenched in the besieged city, going so far as to erect checkpoints.

Signs of today's violence erupted when Yemeni  Prime Minister  Khaled Bahah's cavalcade came under sustained fire at one those Houthi manned roadblocks. Bahah had just left a meeting with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi  and his Houthi adviser, Saleh al-Samad, when he was attacked.

A government spokesman described the incident involving the PM an "assassination attempt", expressing a sentiment that was echoed by Yemen's information minister who is calling the unfolding violence, which has so far claimed one life, as an "attempted coup."


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