Yemen’s Houthi group seizes Aden international airport

Sanaa: The Shiite Houthi group took control over Aden international airport after the retreat of tribal militia, a security official told Xinhua.

“Dozens of tribal militia allied with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi left their positions around Aden airport and headed towards neighboring southern Abyan province on Wednesday evening,” the local security source said on condition of anonymity.

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“After they left, forces loyal to the Houthi group came from some military camps inside Aden took control over the airport,” the source added.

Local residents said they heard loud explosions and gunfire in various neighborhoods in the city which is the last refuge of the embattled Yemeni president in the country as the Shiite Houthi fighters are quickly closing in on Hadi’s provisional capital.

Hundreds of local residents rushed to rob some government compounds and the republican palace buildings, according to local sources.

Meanwhile, fierce fighting continues between the Shiite Houthi gunmen backed by security forces and pro-Hadi militia in the southern Lahj province close to borders with Aden.

Earlier in the day, the Houthi group imposed its full control over a strategic military air base in Lahj and captured the country’s defense minister along with several top military officials allied with Hadi.

Warplanes of the Yemeni Shiite Houthi group fired three rockets on the buildings in the presidential palace in Aden earlier Wednesday, a government official told Xinhua.

“Three rockets hit the buildings inside the presidential palace in Aden, with no reports of casualties at the moment,” the local official in Aden said on condition of anonymity.

Residents near the palace on a hill in the city said they heard huge explosions and gunfire and saw smoke rising from the palace.

A military source said that units of the presidential guards used anti-aircraft artilleries to expel the fighter jets that came from Sanaa.

A source at the presidential palace told Xinhua that Hadi is still in Aden to command his forces to fight against the Houthi group.

He said Hadi is in “a safe and well-guarded place and he won’t leave the country,” declining to confirm whether or not Hadi is in the presidential palace.

On Monday, Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi called for a mass military mobilization to restore security in the south, accusing Hadi and the Gulf countries of destabilizing the country.

In late February, Hadi fled to Aden, the country’s second biggest city, after weeks of house arrest by the Houthi group in the capital Sanaa, and stepped up confrontations with the Houthis who took over control of the capital last September.

In his first public speech after arriving in Aden, Hadi said on Saturday that the Houthi group should withdraw from Sanaa and other provinces.

He slashed on the air raid on his residence in the port city last week, calling on the army and security forces to be committed to the presidency. The actions of the Houthi militia “prompted our armed forces to deal with it,” Hadi said.

U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar briefed the U.N. Security Council on Sunday that Yemen is on “rapid downward spiral” and current events “are leading the country away from political settlement and to the edge of civil war.”

The impoverished country has mired in political gridlock since 2011 when mass protests forced former President Ali Abdullash Saleh to step down.

The three-year reconciliation talks failed to resolve the crisis but create huge power vacuum that could benefit the powerful al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and other extremist groups.

On Friday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for suicide bombings against the Houthi group in Yemen, which killed at least 154 people and wounded 350 others.