Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s president and representatives of the insurgent Houthi movement were reportedly holding talks on Tuesday, following an outbreak of deadly violence between Houthi fighters and government troops earlier this week.
Fighting flared up between Houthis occupying the capital Sana’a and government forces on Monday, a day after the Yemeni president’s chief of staff was seized by the Houthis, though a fragile ceasefire agreed by both sides on Monday night was holding on Tuesday.
The fate of Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, who was abducted on Saturday by Houthi rebels in a serious escalation in the country’s political crisis, remains unclear after reports that the movement had delayed his release.
Mubarak, who heads up the committee tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution, was kidnapped while on his way to a meeting with President Hadi to discuss the new document.
The group had agreed to free Mubarak on Monday, according to Yemen’s information minister, on condition that some articles in the constitution be altered, as well as demanding changes be made to the country’s political road map.
On Tuesday, Yemen’s president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was reported to be meeting with Houthi representatives in order to discuss the makeup of a commission tasked with considering how to implement plans to reform Yemen along federal lines, contained in the new constitution.
Health Minister Riyadh Yassin Abdullah said nine people had been killed in Monday’s clashes, with 67 injured.
President Hadi does not currently reside in the palace, but the compound includes the residence of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, which was surrounded by armed members of the Houthi movement on Monday, according to a government spokesman. Bahah’s motorcade was earlier shot at by Houthis as he was leaving Hadi’s home for a meeting with Houthi representatives.
Information Minister Nadia Al-Saqqaf told Asharq Al-Awsat the fighting began after gunmen from the Shi’ite group, along with members of the national guard loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, stormed the presidential palace compound demanding the inclusion of Houthi members in the country’s upper house of parliament, the Shura Council.
Many in Yemen believe Saleh is behind the current turbulence in the country, and that members of the military loyal to him have aided the Houthi advance across large parts of Yemen.
The Houthis took control of Sana’a in September following a month-long series of mass sit-ins and demonstrations demanding the formation of a new government and the reinstatement of fuel subsidies slashed by the state as an economic reform measure.
President Hadi reached an agreement with the group shortly afterwards, agreeing to their demands but also stipulating that all acts of violence should stop immediately and all weapons seized by the group from military installations be returned.
Hamdan Al-Rahbi contributed additional reporting from Sana’a.