Yemen’s President and his top military officials are reportedly on the run from their temporary stronghold in the southern port city of Aden, after Iran-backed Houthi militants stormed the area in an attempt to usurp more territory and capture the president.
The Houthi jihadis have also seized Yemen’s defense minister and placed him under arrest, according to reports.
On early Wednesday, the Houthi military overtook al-Anad air base, which lies just 37 miles from Aden. Afterwards, there were reports that Hadi decided to flee from his presidential palace in the port city, following reports of unidentified fighter jets executing bombing runs over his location. AFP reports that president Hadi boarded a helicopter and flew off to an “unknown destination” outside of Yemen’s borders.
Senior aides of the Yemeni president continue to insist that he is in a “secure location within Aden,” has not left the country, and has no plans for doing so.
U.S. and European military “advisers” evacuated al-Anad just last week, after it became clear that jihadis from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were closing in on their location, the BBC reports.
Aden TV, which is controlled by loyalists to president Hadi, told residents not to allow “infiltrators and those with weak spirits” to enter their property. Local witnesses told the BBC that Aden residents were preparing to take up arms and fight the Houthis.
The state-television network, which is now controlled by the Houthis, announced a 20 million riyals ($93,000) reward for anyone who is successfully able to capture president Hadi.
Additionally, Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia is moving “heavy military equipment including artillery to areas near its border with Yemen,” according to U.S. officials.
On Tuesday, it appeared as if the country’s factions were preparing to engage in a full-scale civil war. Last week, Iran dumped 180 tons of weaponry into the hands of Houthi militants. The recognized Yemeni government responded by asking Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to provide financial and military support to its forces. The UN has urged for a diplomatic settlement, warning that not reaching an accord would be “inviting a protracted conflict.”