Middle East Updates / Two Parties Walk Out of Yemen Crisis Talks Citing Shi'ite Houthi Threats

Erdogan criticizes Turkey spy chief's decision to quit and run for parliament; Drone strike kills six, including Afghan militant with suspected ISIS links.

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Houthi Shi'ite rebels attend a meeting to announce their taking over the country in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2015.Credit: AP

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Latest updates:

2:40 P.M. Two parties walk out of resumed Yemen crisis talks, citing Shi'ite Houthi threats

Two parties walked out of resumed talks on Yemen's political crisis on Monday after saying they had received threats from the country's dominant Houthi movement.

Yemen's years-long political crisis risks escalating into a full-blown civil war pitting regional, political, tribal and sectarian rivals against each other in a nation that shares a long border with top global oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

Western countries also fear that further chaos in Yemen could give more space to a branch of Al-Qaida based there, which has attempted to launch attacks on international airliners.

Islah, a big opposition party that merges Islamist and tribal interests, and the smaller Nasserist Organisation, quit Monday's first round of talks saying they had been threatened by a Houthi representative at the negotiations, Mehdi al-Meshaat.

"He (Meshaat) wanted to impose the choices of the group by force," said Nasserite Organisation secretary general Abdullah al-Noman. (Reuters) 

2:16 P.M. Erdogan criticizes Turkey spy chief's decision to quit and run for parliament

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan said he did not welcome a decision by the country's powerful spy chief to quit and run for parliament, signalling a possible rift over plans for looming elections among the ruling elite.

Erdogan's reaction to the move by Hakan Fidan, one of his main allies, surprised commentators who had widely predicted the intelligence chief would stand in June elections - and depicted it as part of a plan to strengthen the ruling party's power base in parliament.

"I don't view his candidacy positively. I said this to the prime minister," Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul airport on Sunday.

The president did not spell out his reasons. But analysts suggested Erdogan may have intervened because he had come to rely on Fidan at the helm of the intelligence agency.

"Hakan Fidan is Erdogan's man in Turkey's intelligence community. He is at the center of the Kurdish peace talks ... and Turkey's Syrian policy. Who can replace him," said Jonathan Friedman, senior associate at Stroz Friedberg.

The Turkish constitution demands that the president remains impartial, and Erdogan acknowledged Fidan's candidacy was a matter for loyalist Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. (Reuters)

12:09 P.M. Yemen's Houthi Shi'ite rebels meet with political rivals for first time since power grab

Yemen's Shi'ite rebels are meeting with political rivals for the first time since cementing their power grab last week by dissolving parliament and making their top security body the de facto government.

The talks brokered by United Nations envoy Jamal Benomar on Monday included representatives from a coalition of the country's top political parties as well as the party of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The negotiations last broke down Thursday after politicians accused the rebels, known as Houthis, of refusing to offer any political concessions, including lifting a siege imposed on President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his cabinet members, who had earlier resigned from their positions in protest.

The Houthis dissolved parliament the next day and appointed a Revolutionary Committee to govern the country. (AP)

11:53 A.M. Drone strike in Afghanistan kills six, including veteran militant with suspected ISIS links

A drone strike in Afghanistan killed six people on Monday including a veteran militant suspected of having defected to Islamic State from the Taliban, senior Afghan officials in Helmand province told Reuters.

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Mullah Abdul Rauf has been influential in Afghanistan's jihadi movement for more than a decade. The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The police chief and the deputy governor in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand both said Rauf was killed.

Police chief Nabi Jan Mullahkhel said Rauf was travelling in a car when the drone attacked. The other casualties included his brother-in-law and four Pakistanis, Mullahkhel said. (Reuters) 

10:47 A.M. Egyptian authorities say 19 people killed in Cairo stadium, no victims killed by police

Egyptian authorities said Monday that 19 people had been killed in a crush at a Cairo stadium, AFP reports, lowering the death toll from 22. Authorities added that none of the victims had been killed by police. (Haaretz)

10:42 A.M. Death toll in Baghdad suicide attack rises to 18

Eighteen people were killed Monday in a suicide bomb attack in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, local news service Alsumaria reported quoting police officials.

The blast, in the largely Shi'ite district of al-Kadhemiyya in the north of the city, injured another 38 people, the report said. (DPA)

10:24 A.M. Egypt soccer coach does not blame police for killing fans during Cairo clashes

The head of Egypt's second largest soccer team says he doesn't blame police for deaths of 22 fans during clashes and a stampede in front of a Cairo stadium.

Mortada Mansour, head of the Zamalek team, told a private Egyptian TV station that police did not open fire on fans, and that Sunday's violence was "orchestrated" to foil upcoming parliamentary elections.

Mansour, a well-known lawyer, is a staunch supporter of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former army chief who has waged a sweeping crackdown on dissent since the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Authorities say the violence began when hundreds of hard-core Zamalek fans known as Ultras White Knights tried to force their way into the stadium to attend a soccer match without tickets. (AP)

8:07 A.M. Iraqi officials: At least 15 people killed in Baghdad suicide attack

A suicide bomber set off an explosive-laden vest in a busy Baghdad square crowded with rush-hour commuters early Monday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens, officials said.

The attack took place in Adan Square, in a predominantly Shiite part of the capital, and appeared to be the latest in a near-daily string of attacks carried out by Sunni Islamic extremists targeting the country's Shi'ite majority.

A police officer provided the death toll and said 45 other people were wounded. A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief the media.

The attack came two days after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi lifted a midnight to 5 A.M. curfew in the capital that had been in place in various forms since 2004, when Iraq was engulfed in violence following the U.S.-led invasion the year before.(AP)

12:05 A.M. Egypt: 22 people killed in clashes outside Cairo soccer stadium

Twenty-two people were killed outside an Egyptian soccer match on Sunday when security forces barred fans from entering the stadium, the public prosecutor's office said.

Most of the dead were suffocated when the crowd stampeded after police used teargas to clear the fans trying to force their way into a league match between two Cairo clubs, Zamalek and Enppi, doctors and witnesses said. Read full article here (Reuters)