Yemeni supporters of the Houthis shout slogans during a demonstration against what they call foreign interference in Yemeni politics on February 27, 2015 in the capital Sanaa. AFP/Mohammed Huwais.
Supporters of the Houthi movement and those of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi staged rival rallies across Yemen on Friday, while the US drone strikes continued in the country.
Thousands of Houthi supporters gathered in Sanaa and the western city of Hajjah to express support for the group’s takeover of the capital in September.
Houthi supporters shouted slogans in support of the “constitutional declaration” issued from capital Sanaa by the Houthis after dissolving parliament earlier this month.
Hadi supporters gathered in the southern Taiz province to demand that the national capital be relocated to the southern city of Aden, where Hadi hopes to reinstate his embattled presidency.
Protesters also shouted slogans against the recent “occupation of Sanaa” by Houthi militants.Anti-Houthi protesters also staged a demonstration in the western al-Hudaydah province. The central Ibb province, meanwhile, saw rallies by both camps.
Last week, Hadi fled Sanaa — where he had been placed under house arrest by the Houthis — to the southern city of Aden.
Western-backed Hadi has been seeking to restore his authority from Aden, and earlier this week received representatives of Yemen’s seven political parties.
Hadi, who is also backed by the United Nations as Yemen’s legitimate ruler, retracted a resignation he offered last month.
He said he hopes to make Aden secure for the return of foreign diplomatic missions, after many countries including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates shuttered their embassies.
Meanwhile, Kuwait joined its Gulf partners Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates and decided to reopen its Yemeni embassy in Aden, instead of the militia-controlled capital Sanaa.
“In the framework of supporting constitutional legitimacy in Yemen represented in President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi… the state of Kuwait has decided to reopen its embassy in the city of Aden,” the foreign ministry said, quoted by the official KUNA news agency.
The ministry said the decision was in accordance with an agreement by the foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Saudi Arabia and the UAE also announced this week that they would reopen their Yemen embassies in Aden.
The Houthis, who have long clashed with central authorities, descended from their power base in northern Yemen to seize Sanaa in September.
After their attempts to expand into southern and central Yemen were checked by fierce resistance from al-Qaeda and from tribesmen, the militia moved to take power this month in what Yemen’s Gulf neighbors branded a coup.
Yemen has fallen into turmoil since a 2012 uprising forced out autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been in power for 33 years, after a year of unrest. Following Saleh’s overthrow, the Houthis, al-Qaeda, separatists from the former independent South Yemen, and tribesmen have been fighting each other to gain power and territory in the fragile state.
US drone strike kill three people
Meanwhile, a drone strike on Saturday killed three alleged al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, a tribal source said, in a region where the United States is the only country operating the unmanned aircraft.
The raid “targeted a vehicle in which three members of al-Qaeda were riding in the village of Bijan, in Shabwa province,” the source said.
All three were killed, and their bodies burnt.
Despite the turmoil, US President Barack Obama vowed on January 25 not to let up in the American campaign against jihadists in the strife-torn Arabian Peninsula country.
Obama ruled out US troop deployment in Yemen but said Washington would continue “to go after high value targets inside Yemen,” admitting however that this was “a long, arduous process.”
The Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is seen by the United States as the deadliest branch of the global extremist network.
Critics of US drone strikes have denounced the impact the attacks have had on Yemeni civilians, who have been killed or seen their homes destroyed.
On January 27, a Yemeni rights group said a sixth grade student was among those who killed in January 26 US drone strike east of the capital Sanaa.
In December 2013, a US drone strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen killed 17 people, mostly civilians.
The United States counts any male of military age killed in drone strikes as “militants,” regardless of their actual involvement with al-Qaeda.
(AFP, Anadoul, Al-Akhbar)