Rebels in Yemen have surrounded President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s residence in the capital and were holding him "captive," presidential aides said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. The rebels have not yet seized full power from Hadi, but a leader demanded in a speech on Tuesday night that the president grant Houthis more power under Yemen’s constitution, or they would take “further measures.”
Despite the threat, rebel politburo member Mohammed al-Bukhaiti told Reuters that Hadi was free to leave his home if he pleased. Rebels shelled guard positions at the Hadi’s Sanaa residence on Monday. "In general, it would be accurate to say that the Houthis are in control of all of the major institutions in the capital,” Reuters correspondent Yara Bayoumy told NPR News.
â€” Haykal Bafana (@BaFana3) January 21, 2015
An adviser to Hadi said Yemen was “at the point of no return,” and the military was in disarray, according to the AP. Rebels took over a military flight school, Sanaa’s primary missile base and the presidential palace on Tuesday. They were met with little to no resistance and were reportedly helped by insiders at the palace, who handed them the palace weapons stores.
Houthi rebels began their march on Sanaa in September, with the declared aim of stopping Hadi from marginalizing the Shiite minority in the north of the country and ending widespread corruption. Transparency International lists Yemen as highly corrupt in all of its most recent Corruption Index studies, and says corruption had only worsened since a protest movement ousted long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.
Hadi signed a power-sharing deal with the Houthis in September, but rebels said recently that he has gone back on that agreement. Last week they detained Hadi’s chief of staff.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group’s most capable cell, is based in Yemen and adds to international worries that Yemen could completely destabilize in the event of a coup. Al Qaeda, however, is a Sunni extremist movement and not an ally of the Shiite Houthis.