Things are going downhill quickly in Yemen as Iran-backed rebels have seized control, reports the Associated Press:
Yemen’s information minister says Shiite Houthi rebels are shelling the residence of the country’s president as they also swept into the presidential palace in the capital, Sanaa.
The minister, Nadia al-Sakkaf posted on her Twitter account on Tuesday that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi home in downtown Sanaa has come under “heavy shelling since 3:00 PM by armed forces positioned over rooftops facing his house.”
Hadi is believed to be inside the house.
The shelling is a dramatic escalation in the violence that has gripped Sanaa since Monday and which has been described as a coup.
Al-Sakkaf’s posting came as a Yemeni army commander said the rebels have also raided the presidential palace – where Hadis’ office is – and are looting its weapons depot.
The Houthis have also seized Yemen’s state-owned media.
Shots were fired Monday night at a U.S. Embassy vehicle near the Sanaa building’s checkpoint, officials said. Yet U.S. officials told NBC late Monday “that they don’t plan to evacuate the American embassy in Yemen’s capital.”
Egypt closed its embassy Monday in the face of the mounting danger.
In September, President Obama said, “This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
“More problems in Pres Obama’s anti-terror ‘success story,'” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) tweeted Monday. “Houthi rebels seize #Yemen state media, battle soldiers.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman issued a statement calling “on all sides to immediately cease all hostilities, exercise maximum restraint, and take the necessary steps to restore full authority to the legitimate government institutions.”
The UN Security Council is meeting on Yemen today behind closed doors.
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Monday that “the reality is that we want to stay in Sanaa as long as we can.”
“We want to try to support the government,” Burr told CNN. “But, as we see, this is a government that’s not been in control of a country for quite a while now. And as the fighting continues and it grows, we have to pause and ask ourselves, what is AQAP up to at this time?”