Deposed Yemeni President Flees Capital, Vows to Resist Houthi Takeover

AP Photo/Hani Mohammed
AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

The overthrow of Yemen’s U.S.-backed government by Iran-backed rebels from the Houthi tribe might not be complete just yet.

Deposed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi managed to escape from house arrest—allegedly by distracting his captors with a truck full of guns and slipping out the back door of the presidential palace—and has withdrawn from the capital of Sanaa to take refuge in the southern city of Yemen, where the UK Daily Mail reports he is trying to organize both Yemeni tribes and the international community against the coup:

In a statement, signed as president, [Hadi] said all measures taken by the Huthis since they seized Sanaa in September and began a push to extend their control farther afield were “null and illegitimate”.

The aide said Hadi will call on parliament to meet in Aden, as powerful tribes in the southern provinces of Marib, Jawaf and Baida urged him to declare Sanaa an “occupied city”.

He said Hadi “remains the legitimate president and that he resigned under pressure from Huthis”.

The president called for the national commission overseeing the drafting of a new constitution to create a federation to convene, saying it should meet in Aden or Taez province until Sanaa “returns as a safe capital for all Yemenis, and the withdrawal of all armed militia”.

Hadi urged civil and military institutions to “abide by the decisions of the constitutional authority and to protect it, including above all the armed forces and security forces”.

And he demanded an end to the “house arrest” of Prime Minister Khalid Bahah and other officials, urging Arab states and the UN Security Council to “protect the process in Yemen… and not to legitimise the coup in any way”.

The Houthis might have Sanaa, but they are having trouble getting rival southern tribes under control and facing resistance from al-Qaeda, which is strong in south Yemen. The Daily Mail reports there have been scuffles in Yemen between military forces loyal to Hadi and “special police” units which evidently support the Houthis.

The U.N. Security Council has also called for the release of Prime Minister Bahah and withdrawal of militia forces from Sanaa, with an eye toward working out some kind of political solution between the various warring factions of Yemen. The Houthis, however, seem very upset by Hadi’s escape from house arrest, suspending multi-party talks after news of his reappearance in Aden broke. Iran—which supported the Houthis but, according to some analysts, does not have direct control over them—has signaled a desire to be part of the negotiations.