Shiite insurgents stormed Yemen’s presidential palace and besieged the leader’s residence Tuesday in a show of force that threatened to topple a government that has been a key American ally in the fight against al-Qaeda.
The attack by the Houthi rebel faction — believed to be backed by Iran — marked a major setback for President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. While he apparently survived, and was nominally in charge, the rebel leader warned that the offensive “has no ceiling” if the president does not implement plans that include granting more power to the insurgents.
Houthi rebel militiamen seized control of the palace of Yemen’s president and clashed with guards outside his residence on Tuesday, in an escalation of the violent crisis that has gripped the capital for days and raised fears of a coup in one of the Arab world’s most impoverished and insecure states.
The president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, viewed by the United States as a crucial counterterrorism ally, was believed to be in the capital, but his exact whereabouts was unknown. He made no public statements as the fighting escalated, though Houthi leaders insisted that he was safe and in his home.
As the government fights the Houthis, it also wages a U.S.-backed offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), whose insurgency has only grown deadlier by the year. The latest unrest comes days after AQAP took responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Will the Yemeni government be overthrown in a coup?