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Houthis seize historic castle in western Yemen - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A Houthi rebel on patrol following dawn prayers attended by supporters of the rebels on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, in Sana'a, on October 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

A Houthi rebel on patrol following dawn prayers attended by supporters of the rebels on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, in Sana’a, on October 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Houthi militants captured a historic castle in Al-Hudaydah Governorate on Friday following clashes with members of Hirak Al-Tuhami, an anti-Houthi political group based in the west of the country.

“The Houthi militia managed to take control of the Corniche Al-Hudaydah Castle after clashes with members from the Hirak Al-Tuhami. The two sides exchanged fire with light and medium arms,” a source from the city who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Shi’ite movement also seized a key public square where Friday prayers were supposed to be held followed by a demonstration by Hirak Al-Tuhami supporters in protest against the Houthi presence in the city, the source added.

Houthi snipers were positioned on top of the castle as a precaution against possible counterattacks.

“Violent clashes erupted between Houthis and members of the Hirak Al-Tuhami group along the Hudaydah corniche on Thursday,” a senior figure from the group told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Two civilians were killed during the clashes and several Hirak Al-Tuhami members injured.

Hirak Al-Tuhami fighters managed to capture a militant loyal to the Shi’ite group who was identified as a Republican Guard soldier named Radwan Al-Maroni. He was turned over to the city’s authorities.

“There is a third side seeking to inflame the situation in Hudaydah,” the source said, referring to Yemeni forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The ongoing advance of Houthi fighters across parts of Yemen threatens to impact the security of neighboring Arab Gulf states, a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) official told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the diplomat called on the GCC’s Peninsula Shield Force to act swiftly to contain the threat posed by both Houthi militants and Al-Qaeda fighters to neighboring Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Al-Qaeda terrorists and Houthi militants are increasingly engaged in a bitter conflict in central Yemen, sparking fears of sectarian conflict. Dozens of Shi’ite fighters were killed by Sunni Al-Qaeda militants in the central city of Radda on Saturday, tribal sources reported.

Fighting has flared up in several Yemeni provinces after Shi’ite militants loyal to Abdul Malik Al-Houthi took control of almost all government buildings in the capital Sana’a in September, seizing security and military bases with little or no resistance from government forces.

The heaviest fighting between Al-Qaeda and the Houthis has been reported in and around the city of Radda in Al-Baydah Province. Radda has traditionally been a Sunni stronghold with the Houthis now eyeing the city following their advance into central and western Yemen.

Arab Gulf states, particularly neighboring Saudi Arabia, have expressed concerns at the Houthis ongoing advance, warning that it represents a disruption of the GCC initiative which saw then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh transfer power to his deputy Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in 2012.

Wael Hazzam contributed reporting from Hudaydah.