Houthis tighten grip on Yemen capital

Rebels strengthen positions in Sanaa, celebrating their advance, while continuing to raid their rivals' buildings.

    Yemen's Houthi fighters have tightened their grip on the capital Sanaa 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 uprising against the government.

    On Monday, the heavily armed rebels raided the house of General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and set up checkpoints across Sanaa, as the general and his allies fled and went into hiding.

    They also raided the Suhail TV channel's headquarters in the capital, a day after the signing of a UN-brokered peace deal between the government and the Shia rebel group.

    The channel belongs to the al-Islah (reform) political party, a Sunni Islamist party which draws support and membership from heavily armed Sunni tribesman, and are instrumental in rallying support behind the army and the government. The Houthis have identified the party as its arch-enemy.

    "[The Houthis] are continuing their campaign of revenge against their enemies in the country," said Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall, reporting from Sanaa.

    Houthis celebrated their successful advance in Sanaa with fireworks and gatherings. But our correspondent reported that a car bomb killed "scores" of Houthis who were gathering to celebrate their victories near the Saudi-Yemeni border. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

    The Houthis had earlier seized a series of strategic installations and key state buildings in Sanaa, though it later handed most of them over to military police, according to the Associated Press news agency.

    Hundreds dead

    The deal signed on Sunday, called for the formation of a new government within a month, and aimed to bring an end to weeks of clashes and protests that have crippled the capital.

    President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi is required to appoint advisers from the Houthis and southern separatists within three days.

    Sanaa's northern and western districts, the scenes of fierce battles over the last week, were damaged by relentless shelling, their buildings pockmarked by gunfire and bodies of slain fighters left on the streets.

    At least 200 people were killed on the outskirts of the capital in fighting, the government said Monday.

    AFP news agency reported that rescue teams retrieved 53 bodies during the day, "bringing the total pulled by ministry teams since September 16 to 200 bodies," the health ministry said in a statement carried by Saba state news agency.

    The Zaidi Shias, 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 marginalised since their last king in Sanaa was overthrown in a 1962 revolution.

    Their strongholds are in the mountainous north of the country.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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