Yemen president asks Houthis to pull out of cities -UPDATED

The Houthis moved into al-Manasseh area in al-Bayda province under cover from Katyusha rocket fire from the Yemeni army and presidential guard

Yemen president asks Houthis to pull out of cities -UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi on Sunday called on Shiite Houthi militants to pull out of all of cities, including the capital Sanaa, without delay.

In his most vociferous criticism against the Shiite group, Hadi in a televised address described the group's seizure of Yemen's state institutions as a kind of "occupation."

He also called on the Houthis not to shirk their responsibility for their country's security and stop using "false excuses" to continue occupying state institutions and petroleum companies.

"Only Yemen's army has the right to fight terrorism in it," Hadi said, apparently in reference to a pronounced justification used by the Houthis that they fight in the central Yemeni province of Al-Bayda' and other Yemeni provinces.

In his address that came on the sidelines of a meeting with Yemen's National Defense Council, his advisors and prime minister-designate Khaled Bahah, Hadi said the army would maintain its efforts in fighting militant groups nationwide.

CLASHES

Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters backed by government fire thrust into strongholds of al Qaeda and its Sunni tribal allies in the centre of Yemen on Sunday, killing around 10 civilians, local tribesmen said.

They said the Yemeni army pounded local tribes and fighters of al Qaeda's local wing, Ansar al-Sharia, with air strikes, artillery and Katuysha rockets in al-Baydah province, about 160 km (100 miles) southeast of the capital Sanaa.

"Around 10 civilians were killed and a number were injured, including women and children," one tribal source said. "But because it is dark and due to the continuing clashes, we were unable to retrieve all the victims," he told Reuters, adding that dozens of families had fled the fighting.

Ansar al-Sharia said its fighters and those of allied tribesmen, along with civilians, had evacuated the al-Manasseh area, one of its main southern strongholds, under pressure from army strikes without suffering any casualties. It said in a statement that U.S. drones had participated in the attacks.

The northern-based Houthis established themselves as power brokers in Yemen last month by capturing Sanaa against scant resistance from the administration of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, angering al Qaeda and Sunni Muslim tribal allies.

Another tribal source said heavy fighting was underway in the Khobza area, another stronghold held by Ansar al-Sharia and its allies, in al-Baydah.

"The Houthis are advancing to control the rest of Qaifa (tribal) areas and the night could see even more violent confrontations," the tribal official, who declined to be named, told Reuters by telephone.

The Houthis, with Yemeni army backing, earlier battled their way to al-Manasseh, a small town regarded as the main Ansar al-Sharia powerbase in the area.

Tribal sources said the Ansar al-Sharia fighters withdrew to another district called Bakla, about 3 km (two miles) away.

The Houthis began advancing into central and western Yemen this month after an al Qaeda bomber killed at least 47 people, mostly members of the group, as they prepared to stage a rally in Sanaa earlier this month.

Until now the Yemeni army had avoided supporting the Houthis in their advance on al Qaeda. But Hadi considers Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as the main threat facing the country.

One tribal leader said the Houthis exploited old rivalries between two wings of one of the main tribes in the area, the al-Dahab tribe, and managed to enter the area.

Houthi officials made no comment, but the group's television station said Houthi fighters and their allies have "reached the home of the leader of the criminal gangs" in al-Manasseh, referring to Ansar al-Sharia.

A U.S. drone struck al Qaeda targets in al-Manasseh on Friday, killing at least three people, tribal sources said.

Local sources said on Sunday that Abdel-Ra'ouf al-Dahab, the local leader of Ansar al-Sharia, and a number of Saudi members of the group were killed in the strike. Officials could not confirm the report.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Ekim 2014, 22:29
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