September 27, 2014 / 9:45 AM / 3 years ago

Houthi rebels attack Yemen security chief's home

SANAA (Reuters) - Shi‘ite Muslim rebels attacked the home of Yemen’s intelligence chief in Sanaa on Saturday, residents and security sources said, showing the fragility of a power-sharing accord that has failed to halt fighting in the capital.

Houthi rebels seized control of much of Sanaa last week, hours before the accord was signed with other political parties providing for the creation of a new government.

The takeover of the capital effectively made the Houthis the main power brokers in Yemen, a U.S.-allied country whose political, tribal and sectarian turmoil poses risks to the world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia next door.

However there have been several clashes between Houthi rebels and security forces in Sanaa since the accord was signed.

The rebels attacked National Security Chief’s Ali al-Ahmadi’s house in the city’s upscale Hadda neighborhood early on Saturday and clashes continued for two hours, the residents and security sources told Reuters.

One soldier and two insurgents were killed in the fighting, while 15 people - six soldiers and nine Houthis - were wounded, they said.

Houthis continue to patrol many parts of Sanaa, especially around government buildings, and to search passers-by. Military and police blocked off the Hadda area, home to many diplomatic missions and expatriates, after the fighting on Saturday.

The stability of Yemen is a priority for the United States and its Gulf Arab allies because of its position next to Saudi Arabia and shipping lanes which run through the Gulf of Aden.

The power-sharing deal signed on Sunday makes Houthis a part of the government, but it is not clear if that will satisfy their demands, or if it will instead embolden them to seek further powers.

Against the backdrop of the fragmented political, tribal and sectarian scene, any escalation of the fighting could also allow an array of other factions, including southern separatists, former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh and even al Qaeda to take advantage.

President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has said Yemen may be heading for civil war.

Suspected al Qaeda militants attacked a military vehicle in the southern province of Shabwa on Saturday, killing two soldiers and wounding five, a local official told Reuters.

The army launched a campaign earlier this year to flush out al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants from their strongholds in the provinces of Shabwa and Abyan.

Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; additional reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf in Aden; Writing By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Pravin Char

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