US troops have been pulled out of Yemen because of mounting violence which is making the country even more unstable.

An emergency meeting was called by the UN security council after the Americans evacuated its remaining military personnel from Yemen at the weekend.

The meeting was demanded by Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi who fled to Aden in the south of the country after Sanaa, the capital, was stormed by Houthi rebels.

Hadi called for “urgent intervention” to stop the fighting “that is aimed at undermining the legitimate authority”.

However, the US has stated that there will be no military solution to the crisis although “the US would continue to support the country’s political transition” and keep an eye on military threats. The US military at the al-Anad air base were coaching Yemeni fighters to fight against al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda and IS are also involved in the current violence with IS claiming responsibility for a suicide attack on two Houthi mosques on Friday in the capital.

IS set up a base in November in Yemen and is gaining ground while al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also use the country as a base.

Both IS and al-Qaeda are Sunni and believe the Shia Muslim Houthis are heretics.


THE Houthis belong to the Zaidi sect which is a branch of Shia Islam and they currently have control of the capital and parliament following a coup d’etat. Zaidis, who number around one third of the population, were in charge of North Yemen until the early 1960s but the Houthi movement did not begin until 1992 when a youth movement called Believing Youth (BY) was established to promote a Zaidi revival. Thousands of students attended its summer camps and school clubs but confrontation with the government did not begin until 2003, after the West’s invasion of Iraq. Protests by the BY led to hundreds of arrests and when the government tried to arrest charismatic leader Hussein al-Houthi (above) his supporters fought back. Three months of fighting ended with Hussein’s death in September 2004.

Thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless in the following decade of fighting and when the Arab Spring spread to Yemen in 2011, the Houthis jointed the uprisings.

“They were one of the first predecessors of the Arab Spring. They were anti-Saleh, they were anti-repression,” said Madeleine Wells, of George Washington University who has researched the conflict.


THE uprisings brought more supporters to the Houthi cause and their slogans Death of Israel, Death to America, Victory to Islam and Curse the Jews spread over the country although support is based mainly in the north.

Faction leaders in the south do not recognise the Houthi coup.

President Hadi tried to contain the Houthis’ growing power by announcing plans last year for a federation of six regions but this was opposed by Houthis who saw it as a ploy to weaken them.

Current leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi demanded the replacement of the “corrupt” government as well as the reversal of a decision by the parliament to axe subsidies aimed at helping the country’s poor.

Shia and Sunni Houthi supporters made peaceful protests but security forces killed several in Sanaa, sparking renewed fighting which ended with the Houthis taking over government buildings. A hastily negotiated deal was supposed to see government concessions in return for a Houthi withdrawal from the capital but the rebels not only refused to leave but moved into Sunni areas, sparking battles with al-Qaeda jihadis. In January the Houthis took over the presidential palace and placed the president under house arrest.

The movement officially took control of the Yemeni government on February 6, dissolving parliament and declaring a revolutionary committee to be the acting authority in Yemen.

Human rights groups claim the Houthis are torturing and murdering their opponents while others say they are backed by Iran.

For their part the Houthis claim Saudi Arabia and the US are backing the Yemeni government. The US has accused former President Saleh of backing the Houthis after he was forced to stand down during the Arab Spring, handing over his 33-year reign to Hadi, his deputy.

It is feared the escalating violence will lead to further tension and instability in the region. With oil-rich, pro-West Saudi Arabia just next door, the US is alarmed at losing influence in Yemen and its use of the shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden.

However the Houthis are determined to hang on to power and have announced there will be an interim assembly and a five-member presidential council which will take control for the next two years and clamp down on corruption.

The have also demanded a “general mobilisation” of the armed forces against a “dirty war” they claim is being conducted by Hadi loyalists.

It is unlikely their plans will be accepted because of the refusal of al-Quada and IS to recognise them and the largely Sunni south pushing for autonomy. Huge protests against the Houthis have been taking place in many of Yemen’s cities and many claim the coup has polarised the country even more than before, if that were possible.

However it is feared that any confrontation between rival governments based in the south and north would create chaos that could be used to al-Qaeda’s advantage. Fighting is already spreading across the country with a total of 137 people killed on Friday in the Sanaa mosque bombings.

Meanwhile ordinary Yemenis in what is the poorest country in the Middle East continue to suffer, with more than 10 million struggling for food supplies and basic services.