28 Mar 2015

Yemen president calls on military to protect state buildings

Explosions rock the largest arms depot in Yemen’s southern city of Aden as Houthi fighters challenge forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Aden’s largest arms depot was hit by explosions on Saturday, sending flames and smoke into the sky above the southern Yemeni city, witnesses said.

Fire and explosions were reported at the Jabal Hadeed compound, which is close to residential and commercial, although there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Residents reported looting at the depot in recent days as Shi’ite Muslim Houthi fighters challenge forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi for control of the south’s largest city.

The president has called on the army to protect state institutions and carry out the orders of the “legitimate leadership”, as a Arab military campaign led by Saudi Arabai continued against his Houthi militia enemies.

‘Iran’s puppet’

“Your responsibility today is preserving security and stability, protecting state institutions … and carrying out the orders of your legitimate leadership,” Mr Hadi told a meeting of Arab heads of state at an Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

He said the campaign against the Houthis was aimed at protecting Yemenis from “failed aggression”.

Mr Hadi called the Shi’ite Houthi militia “Iran’s puppet” at the Arab League summit in Egypt.

Read more: Saudi Arabia launched air strikes in Yemen against rebels

“I tell Iran’s puppet … ‘You are the one that destroyed Yemen with your political immaturity’,” Mr Hadi said.

Tehran denies providing money and training to the Shi’ite Houthi fighters, as alleged by some western and Yemeni officials.

Saudi King Salman said on Saturday the country’s military campaign in Yemen against Houthi fighters would continue until its targets are achieved.

The rebels made broad gains in the country’s south and east on Friday despite a second day of Saudi-led air strikes.

‘Whatever it takes’

The United Nations began evacuating international staff from Sanaa on Saturday due to the security situation in the Yemeni capital.

The staff, numbering more than 100, were reportedly heading to the airport and were expected to relocate to several countries including Jordan.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Arab heads-of-state summit on Saturday that the only way to prevent a protracted conflict in Yemen was through UN-facilitated negotiations.

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to prevent the fall of its ally, accusing Shiite Iran of “aggression” and of backing the Huthi rebels’ power grab.

At least 39 civilians have been killed in the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm against the Huthis and their allies, officials at the rebel-controlled health ministry in the capital said.

Twelve died when surrounding residential areas were hit in a raid on a military base north of the city on Friday, officials told AFP.

Three dawn strikes on Friday hit the rebel-held presidential compound in south Sanaa, witnesses said.

Warplanes also bombed a Huthi-controlled army brigade in Amran province north of Sanaa, and arms depots in the northern rebel stronghold of Saada, residents said.

Saudi Arabia says more than 10 countries, including four other Gulf monarchies, have joined the anti-Huthi coalition.