SANAA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Yemenis demonstrated in Sanaa on Sunday demanding that Houthi rebels who had seized control of the capital last week leave, a day after the Shi‘ite Muslim fighters attacked the home of the intelligence chief.
The Houthis, named after a Zaydi tribe based in the city of Saada some 540 kms (336 miles) to the north, have refused to quit Sanaa despite an agreement signed last Sunday to make the Houthis a part of the government.
Witnesses said activists chanted slogans against President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi for his apparent weakness before the Houthi fighters.
“You Hadi, find a solution, or else turn around and depart,” demonstrators chanted.
Witnesses said armed Houthi tribesmen, who had been patrolling the streets and operating checkpoints on key Sanaa intersections, did not try to stop the demonstration.
Yemenis are showing signs of discontent with the Houthis who have raided a number of homes as they continue to patrol Sanaa, especially around government buildings, and to search passers-by.
On Saturday, Houthi fighters tried to fight their way into the home of Yemen’s intelligence chief in Sanaa, in a clash that left one soldier and two tribesmen dead. The incident, which also wounded six soldiers and nine Houthis, showed the fragility of the power-sharing deal.
”We have three demands,“ Mohammed al-Nu‘aimi, one of the organizers of the protest, told Reuters. ”First to get the militias out, to return weapons that have been seized and to stop the violations committed by the group towards its opponents.
Nua‘imi said the Houthis should be barred from sitting in the government unless they implemented these demands.
The Houthis captured Sanaa on Sept. 21 after four days of fighting with soldiers loyal to the Sunni Muslim Islah party.
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 Saudi foreign minister told the U.N. General Assembly on Sunday that the situation in Yemen poses a threat to international security, and said the agreement to form a new government had been wrecked by the Houthi’s failure to give up control of the capital.
Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Michael Urquhart