Update as of 4:47 a.m.: The French embassy in Yemen followed the U.S. and U.K. in urging all its citizens to leave Yemen immediately. The embassy said, in a message, that it would remain closed from Friday until further notice, and cited “recent political developments and security reasons” as the reason for its decision.
The U.S. Department of State confirmed late Tuesday that it has shut down its embassy in Yemen and evacuated its staff due to political turmoil and violence that has engulfed the country. The department also issued a travel warning early Wednesday, urging U.S. citizens to “defer” travel plans to Yemen and those currently residing in the country to depart.
"The United States remains firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis who continue to work toward a peaceful, prosperous and unified Yemen," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, according to the Associated Press (AP). "We will explore options for a return to Sanaa when the situation on the ground improves."
Consular services in Yemen have been suspended until further notice and U.S. citizens can contact the American embassy in neighboring countries for assistance, the department said in the travel advisory. The closure of the embassy is expected to complicate the work of the CIA, which has been gathering information about members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and has been occasionally targeting them with drone strikes, AP reported.
The move comes as Shiite Houthi rebels take over most of Yemen, including capital Sanaa.
“The level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remain extremely concerning, and there are no plans for a U.S. government-sponsored evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. We encourage U.S. citizens wishing to depart to do so via commercial transportation options ... U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of a demonstration. An ongoing risk of kidnapping exists throughout Yemen,” the travel warning stated.
Meanwhile, the British embassy in Yemen also announced that it evacuated its diplomatic staff from the country on Wednesday and temporarily closed its office due to the unrest, The Telegraph reported. British officials also urged its citizens to leave the country immediately.
"The security situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate over recent days. Regrettably we now judge that our embassy staff and premises are at increased risk. We have therefore decided to withdraw diplomatic staff and temporarily suspend the operations of the British Embassy in Sana'a,” Tobias Ellwood, foreign office minister for the Middle East, said, according to The Telegraph, adding: "Our ambassador and diplomatic staff have left Yemen this morning and will return to the UK."
Last week, the Houthis dissolved the parliament and took over the capital formally after months of unrest. Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his cabinet ministers, all of whom resigned later, have been put under house arrest by the rebels. Military officials in the country claim that the Houthis are being helped by troops loyal to Hadi’s predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to AP.
Earlier on Tuesday, the rebels took control of the central province of Bayda, a gateway to the country’s south and the oil-rich Maarib province in the east, which is still not under the Houthi control, AP reported.
“Terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to be active throughout Yemen. The U.S. government remains extremely concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens (whether visiting or residing in Yemen), and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests,” the U.S. State Department said in the travel advisory.