Deposed Yemeni President Leaves Capital for Aden

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Yemeni take part in a demonstration following the Friday prayers in the southern city of Aden, on February 20, 2015 against the Houthi militia which seized power in the country last September. AFP

Published Saturday, February 21, 2015

Updated at 2:20 pm (GMT+2): Yemen's former president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi left his official residence after weeks of house arrest by the Houthi militia on Saturday and flew to his home town of Aden, witnesses and a political source said.

It was not initially clear if he had been released from house arrest by the Houthis, who besieged his home and the presidential palace last month, leading him to resign, or if he had escaped.

But Houthi politburo member Ali al-Qahoum was quoted as saying by the local news website Al-Akhbar — unaffiliated with this publication — that Hadi had fled his residence in disguise. But Qahoum added that it no longer mattered if the former president remained there or departed.

The United Nations, which oversaw a new power-sharing agreement between the Houthi group, also known as Ansarullah, and Yemen's other rival factions on Friday, helped him travel to Aden, where his supporters have refused to recognize the authority of the presidential council installed by the Houthi militia to replace him, a senior political source told Reuters.

Hadi's Sanaa residence was looted by Houthi militiamen after he left, witnesses said, but the former president arrived at his home in the Aden district of Khormaksar, sources told Reuters.

Early on Saturday, Houthi militiamen opened fire on protesters in the central city of Ibb, killing one person and wounding another, activists said.

The crowd had gathered in a square to demonstrate against the Houthis' role in overturning the government last month.

Following the shooting, thousands more people took to the streets in protest. Witnesses said the Houthis were deploying more security forces in response.

There was no comment from the Houthi group on the report.

Yemen's rival parties agreed on Friday to create a transitional council to help govern the country and allow a government to continue operating with input from other factions after the effective Houthi takeover.

Western countries are worried that unrest in Yemen could create opportunities for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to plot more attacks against international targets.

Late on Friday a drone destroyed a car carrying suspected members of AQAP in Shawbwa Province, a bastion of the militant group in the rugged mountains of southern Yemen, killing at least three people, residents said.

The United States has acknowledged it carries out drone strikes in Yemen but does not comment on specific attacks. The strikes, which have killed civilians, have angered many people in the country.

Hadi was seen as a supporter of the use of drone strikes against AQAP.

The car was traveling in the Wadi al-Houta district of Shabwa, the residents said. They saw flames surging out of the vehicle and heard several small explosions coming from it after it was struck.

According to rights groups, dozens of suspected al-Qaeda operatives — along with a number of civilians — have been killed by US drone strikes in recent weeks.

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.

Houthis are widely believed to be backed by Saleh.

(Reuters, Anadolu, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

Comments

All one can see is less than 50 demonstrators.

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