(Reuters) – Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi fighters tightened their grip on the capital Sanaa on Monday after seizing much of the city in a lightning advance and signing an overnight deal to win a share of power, capping a decade-long guerrilla uprising.
The Zaydi Shi’ites, who make up 30 percent of Yemen’s population of 25 million and ruled a kingdom there for 1,000 years, have complained of being marginalized since their last king in Sanaa was overthrown in a 1962 revolution.
Houthi followers gathered in the streets, some chanting “Death to America! Death to the Jews! Victory to Islam”, while armed supporters in civilian clothes deployed alongside government soldiers across Sanaa.
The Houthis, named for the tribe of their founder, had fought for more rights for Shi’ites in Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries, where the United States is waging a separate drone air war against al Qaeda.
The Houthis are seen as allied to Iran, the main Shi’ite power in the region and mortal foe of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni monarchies of the Gulf. Their Zaydi Shi’ite sect is related to but separate from the sect practiced in Iran.