Yemen Houthi rebels ‘seize presidential palace’

Residence of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi also under ‘heavy shelling’

Presidential troops block a road leading to the presidential palace in Sanaa.  Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Presidential troops block a road leading to the presidential palace in Sanaa. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

 

Shiite Houthi rebels have shelled the residence of the country’s president and also swept into the presidential palace in the capital, according to the country’s information minister.

The minister, Nadia al-Sakkaf, posted on her Twitter account that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s home in downtown Sanaa has come under “heavy shelling since 3.00pm by armed forces positioned over rooftops facing his house”.

Mr Hadi is believed to be inside the house.

The shelling is a dramatic escalation in the violence that has gripped Sanaa since yesterday and which has been described as a coup.

Ms Al-Sakkaf’s posting came as a Yemeni army commander said the rebels have also raided the presidential palace, where Mr Hadi’s office is, and are looting its weapons depot.

The shelling is a dramatic escalation in the violence that has gripped Sana’a since Monday.

Colonel Saleh al-Jamalani, the commander of the Presidential Protection Force that guards the embattled president, has described the events as “coup”. He told the Associated Press that the rebels who entered the presidential palace were aided by insiders and were looting arms depots in the palace grounds.

Witnesses said there was a brief clash between Houthi forces and palace guards. They also said they saw the Houthis seize armoured vehicles that had been guarding the entrances.

The Houthis fought artillery battles with the army near the presidential palace on Monday in some of the most intense fighting in Sana’a in years, and surrounded the prime minister’s residence.

Nine people were killed and 90 wounded before a ceasefire came into force on Monday evening.

Agencies