Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Houthi fighters have boosted their military presence near Yemen’s western Ma’rib province ahead of a feared advance into the strategic energy hub following the resignation of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his government.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, a senior tribal official in the oil-rich region said Houthi militants stormed a military base in the western Sana’a district of Arqoub on Thursday after besieging it for two days.
The attackers captured tanks and rocket launchers as well as other heavy weaponry from Yemen’s Seventh Army Brigade, the tribal sheikh said.
Violent clashes broke out in nearby Watad district after Houthi gunmen intercepted a vehicle carrying tribal fighters, killing at least two and injuring six others, he added.
The takeover of the military base sees the Shi’ite group tightening its hold on Yemen by targeting its oil and gas infrastructure.
Ma’rib tribes have been on high alert for months now in anticipation of an expected Houthi attack.
Following the latest unrest in the western province, Ma’rib tribal and military leaders held a meeting to form an executive body tasked with defending and overseeing the oil-rich region.
However political and security instability is only expected to worsen following the resignation of President Hadi, Prime Minister Khaled Bahah and the Yemeni government on Thursday.
Ma’rib tribal authorities condemned the actions of the Houthis in a statement on Thursday, accusing the Shi’ite militia of carrying out a “coup” against President Hadi and the [Yemeni] government.
The statement emphasized that “oil, gas and energy facilities [in Ma’rib] belong to the Yemeni people and their legitimate authorities.”
Also in a statement on Thursday, Yemen’s Joint Meeting Parties—a coalition of six opposition parties—warned that the Houthi reliance on force to achieve their political goals will lead to “responses that will disrupt national bonds and threaten the integrity and unity of the national territories.”
The statement condemned “any act that compromises Yemen’s constitutional institutions.”
While Yemen’s Nasserist Unionist People’s Organization party blamed President Hadi for the dangerous turn the country has taken since the Houthi takeover of the capital Sana’a last year.
“President Hadi’s administration of the country and his reliance on many of the mechanisms and tools inherited from the former regime are among the reasons that the country is in the situation it finds itself in today,” a party statement said.
Chaos and instability in Sana’a escalated as hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the capital to condemn the Houthis following Hadi’s resignation. Protesters gathered outside Hadi’s residence, shouting slogans accusing the Shi’ite militia of mounting a coup.