Sana’a and Al-Hudaydah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s Houthi movement was plunged into a state of confusion on Wednesday following news of the sacking of one of its top military commanders over the failure to reach a settlement with other political factions.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, Yemeni political sources said the leader of the powerful group, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, sacked the head of the “Revolutionary Committee” Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi after he failed to convince other factions to join with it in forming a new government in the wake of president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s resignation.
A top military commander, Mohamed Al-Houthi emerged as the de facto ruler of Yemen after the Shi’ite group, officially known as Ansar Allah, announced a controversial declaration earlier this month that dissolved parliament and tightened its grip on the organs of government.
He also reportedly played a key role in the Houthi seizure of the Yemeni capital Sana’a in September.
Prominent Houthi leader Youssef Al-Fishi has now been appointed the new head of the committee, according to sources.
While some sources said Mohamed Al-Houthi had resisted his dismissal, a senior Ansar Allah figure, Saleh Al-Samad, told Asharq Al-Awsat that reports of his dismissal were untrue.
The talks between the Houthis and their rivals, conducted under the auspices of the UN, have failed to produce an agreement to end Yemen’s worsening political crisis. Several parties have already walked out of the talks, demanding the Houthis withdraw from Sana’a, surrender power, and lift the virtual house arrest they have imposed on outgoing president Hadi and other senior officials.
However, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, political sources said the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party led by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has agreed to expand the ranks of Yemen’s parliament by one third, in a possible step forwards in the formation of a new government.
In other developments from Yemen, angry protesters took to the streets of Sana’a on Wednesday to denounce the Houthi takeover, before they were dispersed by fighters loyal to the movement.
The demonstrators demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Houthis from Sana’a and the return of government buildings to state control.
Yemen’s western Al-Hudaydah province was also the scene of large protests, with demonstrators marching to demand the province’s main Red Sea port and airport be closed to the Houthis.
“We hold the Al-Hudaydah governor responsible for . . . the use of Al-Hudaydah’s airport and sea port by the Houthi militias for military purposes against the unarmed people of Yemen,” one protester, Mohamed Yahya, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Meanwhile, three Indian nationals were injured after a bomb went off near a hotel in an upscale neighborhood in southern Sana’a on Wednesday.
The Interior Ministry said it was investigating the scene of blast which, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat, was meant to target Houthi militants.
Wael Hazzam contributed reporting from Al-Hudaydah