Houthi rebels sweep Yemeni capital

On Monday, the Shi’ite Houthi rebels that had been protesting in the thousands for days in Yemen’s capital Sana’a made sweeping military gains in the city, capturing government offices and military installations and prompting some reports to speak of their “almost complete control of the capital.” The Houthis’ stunning advance came only one day after they signed a peace agreement with the Yemeni government calling for the formation of a new inclusive government.

Local press reports on Monday described the complete absence of any Yemeni security services on the streets of Sana’a and the consolidation of the strong Houthi presence in the city. Houthi militias were reportedly fortifying their positions and setting up checkpoints on strategically significant roads in the capital, including Hadda, Sitteen, and Zubayri.

In a sign of their new-found power, the rebels raided the downtown residences of Ali Muhsin, security adviser to the Yemeni president and key military commander, and Hameed al-Ahmar, leader of the Yemeni Alliance for Reform party. Both men hail from the powerful Ahmar clan, part of the Hashid tribal confederation, and have been vocal supporters of the main Sunni party, Islah. On Sunday, Muhsin also clashed with the Houthis at the former headquarters of the First Armored Division and subsequently fled.

Over the weekend, the Houthi rebels took control of many other homes, offices, and military bases in the Yemeni capital. They reportedly seized tanks and armored vehicles from Yemeni military headquarters, which they drove out of the city to their northern strongholds on Monday.

The rebels also attacked Yemen’s state television headquarters, burning its two main buildings in an attempt to take control of the facilities. Additionally, the Houthis seized the vehicle of Sana’a’s mayor, Abdulwader Hilal, at one of their checkpoints in the city.

A week of clashes in Sana’a have left 340 people dead and have wounded at least 900, according to a senior official in Yemen’s Defense Ministry. Thousands of Sana’a residents have fled the fighting. Despite these figures, Yemen’s Interior Ministry ordered all troops to not clash with the Houthi rebels in an effort to avoid more bloodshed and ensure that the Houthis will live up to the peace deal.

The changing security situation in Sana’a and the resulting power vacuum, both in the capital and throughout much of the country, grant al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) the opportunity to capitalize on the current chaos. As early as March 2014, AQAP announced the formation of a new armed group called Ansar al Shariah in the Central Regions, charged with targeting the Shi’ite Houthi rebels. On Monday, AQAP took credit for a suicide attack in Sa’adah province that targeted a “large gathering” of Houthis and allegedly resulted in the deaths of “tens of Houthis including leaders.”

Al Qaeda and its branches are known to exploit political and security vulnerabilities to consolidate power, including in Yemen. In 2011, when Yemeni troops were recalled to Sana’a in an attempt to quell the Arab Spring protests calling for the ouster of longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh, AQAP took advantage of the security vacuum and seized vast areas of southern Yemen. In March 2011, AQAP even announced the establishment of an Islamic emirate in Abyan province. Regardless of the fate of the current Houthi offensive, AQAP appears poised to benefit from the upheaval it could engender.

Tags: ,


  • Will Fenwick says:

    Its not really that much of a surprise given that the Houthis have been pressing towards Sana’a for about the past year or so. They easily took most of Amran province earlier in the year, and previously had been focusing on building up strength and consolidating areas already under their control by taking the Sunni stronghold of Dammaj after a long siege and defeating various Sunni tribes opposed to their rule in other areas. Western Yemen is will turn into a Iranian Satellite state unless the Saudis decider to intervene again, while much of the east will assuredly fall into the hands of the Salafists if the Army completely collapses.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    This will be a massive propaganda and recruitment boost for AQAP. They will say to disaffected Sunnis, “look! The apostate government is letting the Shia take over with no resistance, they are in control now, and they will use their power to further oppress your people and destroy your religion!” — That will in turn drive Sunnis into the ranks of AQAP.
    I know how Jihadists think, and I know how they replenish their ranks. This situation will explode (no pun intended) in the near future, it seems.

  • truthseeker says:

    Based on information collected from yemenis, saudiArabia is behind this unrest although they fought a war with Houthis about 4 years ago on its borders. Saudis invsted in Houthis this time. Supporting Houthis give them a proxy to fight AQAP.

  • Tom says:

    As with the Libyan Rebels pool partying at the Embassy Annex, a clear symbol America has lost the war on terror and is in military, economic, and political decline.
    Pax Americana is now over.

  • Matt says:

    Yemen is a maritime threat, if you let Iran take over another choke point. Pressure how does the oil get to market or trade in general. Like they always threat the Straits of Hormuz. So it is a threat to the Saudi’s border, region to launch attacks and support the Shiites in country. But it is an economic threat. Both a regional threat and global pressure wise. And Yemen as it was, looking at collapse around 2018, 2020, with no intervention. So if a civil war takes hold that time frame is sound. Terror wise Yemen is more of a threat than Syria or Iraq. What containment gets you or CT is limited attacks, plane bombings and parcel bombs. Without it larger coordinated attacks and more often. So if the core cells can be degraded by then. The threat level goes down, and you end up with a localized threat or the JV as it was worded. But without a cooperative Government and some stability security cannot be maintained to that level. And you are swapping the al-Qaida threat for a Shiite Iranian one. This is also why energy independence is strategically important for the US. It all depends when and how the Saudi’s deal with it either inside Yemen or inside Saudi Arabia and whether they can deal with it. This the second or third time Iran and the Saudi’s have tried to do some sort of deal on Yemen. But the Iranians are good at talking. The US may at the last minute use small number of shock troops and air power, maritime strikes, but a long term occupation and nation building is out and that is what is required in the Afghanistan of the Middle East.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    What if nothing changes? Oh wait, that has already happened and we’re dealing with that problem right now. Do you really want to put our soldiers out to babysit, be disrespected for their work, and eventually be killed or injured? I sure don’t. Their lives are not worth losing for a hopeless and outdated culture which will ONLY change on it’s own time, pain and determination.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram