Yemen’s Hadi Evacuated From Aden Palace as Houthi Fight Spreads

Yemeni President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi was evacuated from his palace in the southern city of Aden as it came under aerial attack by forces loyal to the Shiite Houthi rebels who have driven him from the capital.

Hadi was taken to a safe place after airstrikes that left at least 15 people dead, according to aides. Fighting broke out earlier on Thursday in the southern port city, and al-Masdar news website said that militias and army units loyal to Hadi have ousted the Houthi-backed forces from Aden’s airport.

Hadi, whose presidency was backed by the mainly Sunni states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, fled Sana’a, the capital, last month after Houthi rebels captured it. He rallied supporters in Aden and elsewhere in the south, raising the prospect that the country, which was only reunified 25 years ago, may split.

“The upsurge in violence in Aden marks a serous escalation,” Jordan Perry, a Middle East analyst at U.K.-based risk assessment firm Verisk Maplecroft, said in an e-mailed report. It may lead to “a more concerted drive by southern separatists towards secession.”

The conflict over the airport earlier led to the halting of flights, according to al-Masdar.

The violence began when Abdulhafiz al-Saqqaf, the commander of the special forces who is also backed by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, resisted Hadi’s attempts to dismiss him, according to al-Masdar. Al-Saqqaf fled after the defeat of his forces, according to Hadi’s office.

Journalist’s Killing

Yemen borders Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil explorer, and the erosion of the central government’s authority there has enabled al-Qaeda to use the country as a base. The six-member GCC warned on Wednesday that it won’t allow Yemen to be a haven for “terrorist groups,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The latest fighting followed the killing of Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani, a Houthi leader and prominent journalist, by unidentified gunmen in Sana’a on Wednesday. Amnesty International condemned the “despicable” attack and urged an investigation. It’s likely that the assassination led the Houthis to step their attacks, Perry said.

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