Yemenis take to the streets in anti-Houthi protests

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Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of Sanaa Saturday in what can be described as the biggest rally against the Shiite Muslim Houthi group since it claimed control over the capital last September.

The protesters, who rallied in response to invitations from the ‘Rafd’ group, which was recently established in a number of Yemeni governorates, chanted “Down with Houthis rule”.

Sources from the Houthi group had asserted that Houthi officials have met with members of the Yemeni political coalition as part of collective attempts to secure a smooth transition of power.

The coalition comprises a number of political parties, among which are the Socialist Party, the Islamic-oriented Al-Haq Party, the Nasserist Party and Al-Ba’th Leftist Party.

In a statement, the Houthi group called on Yemeni armed forces officials to live up to their historical responsibility and exert efforts to secure the nation’s interest. It also called on popular committees affiliated to it to maintain security in the capital.

The Yemeni parliament is scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss the resignation of the president as part of political efforts to end the stalemate Yemen is currently witnessing.

Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi stepped down after a staged coup carried out by the Shiite Houthi militants, presenting his resignation to the head of parliament on Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday, the Yemeni government had offered its resignation to the president. Prime Minister Khaled Baha said the government did not want to be dragged into “an unconstructive political maze”.

Recently, Yemen’s Houthi militants welcomed proposed concessions by the government on power-sharing, but their gunmen still held positions outside the residence of Hadi, who remained a virtual prisoner there.

Houthis had taken over the presidential palace and replaced guards outside Hadi’s private residence in Yemen’s capital Sanaa following a week of clashes with the governmental forces.

A truce had taken effect in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, after hours of fierce clashes between the Presidential Guard and Shiite Houthi militants erupted on Monday.

The Yemeni government described the Houthi insurgency as a “step toward a coup and state’s legitimacy”.

Houthi militants consolidated their control over the Saada province during the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Since then, they have been engaged in fierce fighting with tribal militias backed by the leading Sunni Islamist party, Islah, and terrorists from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has vowed to defend the country’s Sunni community.

Under an agreement with President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the Houthis pledged to withdraw from the capital once a new unity government was formed.

Following a deal brokered by the United Nations in November, the new cabinet was formed by Prime Minister-Designate Khaled Bahah, a former Yemeni envoy to the UN.

However, the Iranian-backed militants carried out their insurgencies and took control of several Sunni-dominated parts of the country in the centre and west.

Yemen has been a battlefield for several fighting factions including Shiite Houthi militants, Al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni tribal and separatists militias, as the country entered into a state of turbulence following the 2011 uprising.