Yemen president considers ‘Aden country’s capital’

Aide to President Hadi says southern port city became capital as soon as Houthis seized Sanaa.

The Yemeni capital Sanaa is now under the control of the Shia-back armed rebels [[Reuters]

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Aden after escaping from the Houthi armed group controlling Sanaa, considers the southern port city to be Yemen’s capital, a top aide said.

“Aden became the capital of Yemen as soon as the Houthis occupied Sanaa,” the aide quoted Hadi as saying in reference to their takeover of the capital several months ago.

The remarks about Aden reflect Hadi’s determination to hold out against Houthi efforts to extend their influence, but are purely symbolic because moving the capital requires a change to the constitution.

Aden, the country’s second largest city, was capital of a once independent south Yemen, before unification in 1990, when Sanaa became the unified country’s capital. 

Several Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have already moved their embassies to Aden after an exodus of foreign diplomats from Sanaa in February over security concerns.

But the United States, the first to close its mission in Sanaa, has said it will not do so although it continues to back Hadi.

In Sanaa, the Houthis named a “presidential council” after Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahah tendered their resignations in January in protest at what critics branded an attempted coup.

After fleeing house arrest in Sanaa, Hadi resurfaced in Aden where he retracted his resignation. Bahah remains trapped in the capital.

On Saturday, Hadi said that the Houthis had demanded 135 top government jobs and the vice-presidency for one of their leaders, Saleh al-Sammad.

They also demanded that 35,000 armed men be integrated into the armed forces and 25,000 into the police.

Escape from Sanaa

Tensions have been running high in Aden in recent days, as special forces suspected of links to the Houthis readied defences against an anticipated assault by Hadi loyalists.

The special forces commander in Aden, Abdel Hafez al-Saqqaf, has also defied a decree by Hadi sacking him, and said he will only follow orders from the presidential council in Sanaa.

His men have cut roads leading to their headquarters near Aden’s international airport and set up barricades, saying they fear an assault by the Popular Resistance Committees, loyal to Hadi.

On Saturday, Hadi also recalled how he escaped his Sanaa residence through a tunnel linking it to the nearby house of one of his sons and travelled to Aden using back roads.

The Houthis overran Sanaa in September and have since exerted their influence over several other areas.

The Shia group has long complained of marginalisation and fought the government between 2004 and February 2010.

Source: AFP