Feb 21, 2015 5:28 AM

Former Yemen president flees capital after rebels let him go

The Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen (AP) Yemen's former president left the capital after Shiite rebels who surrounded his house let him go under international and local pressure, aides close to him said Saturday.

The aides said former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi left Sanaa and later arrived in Aden. They say Hadi later plans to leave the country to receive medical treatment.

Hadi has been under house arrest for several weeks following a coup by Shiite Houthi rebels. The rebels earlier captured the capital, Sanaa, in September.

The aides say the rebels let Hadi go after pressure from the United Nations, the U.S., Russia and local political parties.

The aides spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to speak to journalists.

Witnesses said Houthis and others in the area later ransacked Hadi's house and at least three people were seen each taking out a Kalashnikov assault rifle from the house.

Jamal Benomar, the U.N. envoy to Yemen, said Friday that rival factions, including the Houthis, have agreed on a new legislative body consisting of former and new lawmakers to serve during the country's upcoming transition period.

But a coalition of Yemeni parties voiced objections to the plan, describing it as an insufficient half-solution.

Ahmed Lakaz, spokesman of the Unionist Gathering Party, which is taking part in the dialogue, said the parties told the Houthis that they would be out of the process if Hadi was not freed.

Yemen has been locked in a political crisis since the Houthi rebels took over the capital and eventually forced the resignation of the elected Western-backed president and dissolved the parliament while keeping Hadi under house arrest.

The political crisis cast also doubts on the United States' ability to continue its counter-terrorism operations, especially with loss of Hadi, a strong U.S. ally.

However, the U.S. has continued to target al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, with drone strikes. Tribal sources said Friday that two suspected al-Qaida members were killed in a drone strike in the southern province of Shabwa.

Later Saturday, thousands marched in support of Hadi in southern Ibb province, where they urged the Houthis to leave the region and halt their interference in local affairs. Houthis opened fire, killing one demonstrator and wounding two, said security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to talk to journalists.


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