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Yemen's Houthi rebels dissolve parliament

Armed Yemeni members of the Shiite Huthi movement shout slogans as they take part in a demonstration in Sanaa on February 4, 2015 in support of the militia which overran the Yemeni capital in September.
Armed Yemeni members of the Shiite Huthi movement shout slogans as they take part in a demonstration in Sanaa on February 4, 2015 in support of the militia which overran the Yemeni capital in September. AFP/MOHAMMED HUWAIS

The Houthi rebels who seized control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa last month said in a televised announcement Friday that they were dissolving parliament and forming an interim presidential council to rule for a two-year term.

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Speaking Friday from the Republican Palace in Sanaa, the Shiite militia group said it was forming a 151-member presidential council to act as an interim government.

The Houthis said that “Revolutionary Committees” would be in charge of forming a new parliament with 551 members.

The statement, read out by an unidentified Houthi representative, announced the start of a “new era that will take Yemen to safe shores”.

The announcement appears to complete their takeover of the country's political establishment after they seized control of the presidential palace on January 20.

Yemen’s embattled president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi resigned soon after his palace was seized amid a heated standoff with the powerful rebels, who by then controlled the capital and had held him “captive” in his house for two days.

Houthi rebels had also kidnapped the leader’s chief of staff, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, shortly before he was due to present a draft of a contested new constitution that had angered the militia.

Yemen has been dogged by instability since the 2012 ouster of Ali Abdullah Saleh after a bloody year-long uprising, with both the Shiite Houthis and Sunni-dominated al Qaeda seeking to fill the power vacuum in the years since.

The situation in Yemen turned more chaotic when the Houthis, who demand more rights for the country’s Zaydi Shiite Muslim sect, seized Sanaa in September and advanced into central and western parts of the country, where Sunnis predominate.

Hadi's ousted government had been a key ally of the United States, allowing Washington to carry out repeated drone attacks on al Qaeda militants on its territory.

Yemen's branch of the jihadist network, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, is considered its most dangerous and has claimed responsibility for January's attack in Paris on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead.

The US State Department condemned the power grab but said it would continue to cooperate with Yemen on counter-terrorism operations.

A United Nations spokesman said the world body was alarmed by Friday’s events and said special envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar was on his way back to the capital Sanaa.

“This power vacuum is of great concern to us,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. “The secretary-general (Ban Ki-moon) and all of those who are concerned with Yemen here are following the situation very closely.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

 

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