New Yemen Leader Calls for Unity in Fractured Nation
Yemen's new leader forms a transitional government as the country faces challenges from the US and Gulf monarchies while a conflict with al-Qaeda looms.
Houthi Rebels to Create Revolution Council to Govern Yemen Following President Resignation
Yemen's Shia Houthi militia formed a "security commission" on Saturday, following Friday's takeover of power, AFP reports. Meanwhile, the militia group's leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, announced in a televised speech that all political factions are welcome to partner with the new government, according to Reuters.
"Our hand is extended to every political force in this country. The space is open for partnership, cooperation and brotherhood and now everybody bears their responsibility for building, not destruction," al-Houthi announced in a televised address. "If Al-Qaeda takes control of the country, it will plot against our brothers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf."
At least 17 people were arrested on Saturday, as protesters demonstrated near the main university in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. A bomb also exploded near the capital, wounding three militia members.
On Friday, the Houthi militia seized power in the country, forming a two-year transitional government. The move followed President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi's abdication on January 22, after Houthi militia seized the country's capital.
The Arabian Peninsula's Sunni Muslim monarchies, united as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), denounced the Houthi takeover of Yemen' government as a "coup," pledging to take all necessary measures to defend their interests, according to AFP.
"The Houthi coup marks a grave and unacceptable escalation… and endangers the security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen," the GCC announced in a statement.
A US official told AFP that the United States joins the Gulf monarchies in condemning the new government. Previously, following Hadi's resignation, the US announced that it would suspend it's operations aimed at curbing al-Qaeda influence in the country's south.
Yemen's Houthi Militias
The Houthis, also known by their official name, Ansar Allah (Supporters of God), are an Iran-aligned Shia group which has been operating in northern Yemen since 1994. The group seeks to revive the rule of Zaidi Shias, who ruled the north of the country prior to 1962, when the country was known as the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen. Following a coup, the country plunged into a civil war between the Egypt-supported republic and the Saudi Arabia-supported kingdom, which the republic won in 1970.
In 1990, North Yemen, also known as the Yemen Arab Republic, united with South Yemen, a Soviet-aligned former British colony also known as the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, forming the Republic of Yemen. In 1994, internal differences and political disarray led to a brief civil war, after southern Yemeni leaders seceded, resulting in the south's defeat.
By 2000 it became apparent that Al-Qaeda fomented its influence in the region, when a suicide attack on the US Navy's USS Cole killed 17 personnel.
In 2004, the group began an armed struggle after the government attempted to arrest the movement's then-leader, the late Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, the current leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi's brother.
A Houthi Shiite Yemeni stands guard in front of a building damaged during recent clashes near the presidential palace in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015.
In 2009, the government mounted a military offensive against the group. At the same time, a campaign against perceived al-Qaeda influence was assisted by US drone strikes and intelligence support from the CIA. The drone strikes were subject to controversy as they frequently killed innocent civilians rather than al-Qaeda targets.
In early 2011, internal political and economic tensions exploded into a popular uprising known as the Yemeni revolution, which followed similar protests known as the 2011 Arab Spring. As a result, Abd Rabuh Manur Hadi was elected president in an uncontested election, following the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the country since the 1990 unification.
By late 2011, Houthi militias controlled two Yemeni provinces, and expanded their influence through both popular protest and armed struggle, reaching the capital in 2012.
By late 2014, Houthis controlled parts of Yemen's capital and a power-sharing agreement was struck, which failed to materialize, leading to the militias' takeover of government and Hadi's resignation in January 2015.
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