Insurgents in Yemen Control Residence and Palace of President

Shiite insurgents are in control of the residence and palace of the besieged president of Yemen following attacks, which threaten to topple a fragile government that has been an important ally for the U.S. in a fight against al-Qaeda.

The attacks by Houthi rebels, believed to be supported by Iran, mark a huge setback for President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Early Wednesday witnesses said that the presidential guards had fled after the Houthi fighters had seized the palace on Tuesday and surrounded the residence of Hadi, where he is said to be.

This followed intense battles on Monday in Sanaa the capital of Yemen.

While Hadi has apparently held onto nominal power, the leader of the rebel warned that their offensive did not have a ceiling if Hadi does not want to make plans that would include giving more power to the Shiite insurgents.

A collapse of the government could send Yemen into a full blown civil war, which could cause disintegration like Syria that many fear might then be exploited by radical groups including al-Qaeda.

Yemen is the home of the group’s most power arm the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP.

In protest to the action by the Houthi, authorities shut down the airport in Aden a port city in the south. The seaport in the city was also shut down in protest, said a national news agency.

The weakened position of Hadi will likely mean trouble for the U.S., which has relied on the former general for carrying out many drone strikes that have been targeting the AQAP.

The Houthis have voiced their displeasure with the government of the U.S. However, it was not clear whether the rebels would force the president of Yemen to suspend the strikes since Houthis considers al-Qaeda as an enemy.

The Houthi follow the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam and are based in Saada province in the north, but in September reached the capital.

The Yemen military gave the Houthis little resistance as they have had a very strained relationship with President Hadi.

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