November 11, 2014 / 12:38 PM / in 4 years

Two killed at Sanaa airport as Houthis, Yemen security men clash-medics

SANAA (Reuters) - At least two people have been killed in a clash between Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters and security guards at Sanaa airport, medics and local officials said on Tuesday, three days after formation of a new government.

Yemen, a U.S. ally situated between oil producer Saudi Arabia and a key shipping route on the Red Sea, is trying to end political unrest that began with protests against Ali Abdullah Saleh, president for 33 years until he stepped down in 2012.

The Houthis, who come from the northern part of the country, seized Sanaa in September in the face of minimal resistance after weeks of demonstrations by protesters opposed to government moves to reduce fuel subsidies.

The Houthis have since pushed further outside the capital, clashing with tribesmen and allied Islamist militants from al Qaeda in fighting in which scores of people have died. Six were killed on Tuesday in a bomb blast in al-Bayda province some 160 km (100 miles) south-west of Sanaa.

Sources at the airport said the clash erupted late on Monday during a dispute over security at the entrance to the terminal.

Airport sources said three security guards were wounded in the incident, prompting the airport to close for one hour. Medics later said that two of the wounded people died of their wounds. One was an airport security guard.

Airport sources said the Houthis had increasingly been interfering in searches of passengers, including foreign travelers, confiscating alcohol they had long been allowed to bring into the country.

They Houthis have also been enforcing a travel ban they have imposed on a number of former government officials.

Under a security annex to the power-sharing deal they signed with other major political parties after seizing Sanaa, the Houthis were to start withdrawing from the capital after a new government was formed. The new government was sworn in on Saturday, but there is no sign the Houthis are preparing to leave.

Instead, the political office of the Houthi’s Ansarullah group has criticized the new government as “disappointing”, saying that some names on the new cabinet did not comply with agreements.

The statement also rejected a U.N. Security Council decision that ordered sanctions on former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and two members of the Houthi group, saying the resolution was a blatant intervention in Yemen’s internal affairs and an attempt to undermine reconciliation efforts.

Reporting by Mohamemd Ghobari, writing by Sami Aboudi, Editing by William Maclean and Ralph Boulton

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