Yemen's Hawthi rebels are getting help from forces linked to Iran and Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah to boost their control of the capital Sana'a.
“Elements affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah, who were training Hawthis in the north of Yemen, are currently present in the capital Sana’a,” Asharq Al-Awsat cited an intelligence source, who asked to remain anonymous, as saying.
The Shi'ite Muslim rebels seized control of much of Sana'a last week, hours before an accord was signed with other political parties providing for the creation of a new government. The takeover of the capital effectively made the Hawthis the main power brokers in Yemen, a U.S.-allied country whose political, tribal and sectarian turmoil poses risks to the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia next door.
The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that members of the elite Iranian force and Hezbollah are aiding the Shi'ite rebels in implementing their agenda in Yemen.
A senior official said on Thursday that Yemen freed two suspected members of Hezbollah held for questioning about alleged ties to the Hawthi rebels. The senior official said the authorities also expected to free at least three suspected members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) with links to the Hawthis, as well as nine Yemenis jailed for involvement in the smuggling of arms aboard an Iranian ship intercepted off the coast in January 2013.
Early on Saturday, Hawthi rebels attacked National Security Chief Ali al-Ahmadi's house in the city's upscale Hadda neighborhood, and clashes continued for two hours, the residents and security sources told Reuters. One soldier and two insurgents were killed in the fighting, while 15 people - six soldiers and nine Hawthis - were wounded, they said.
After the fighting on Saturday, Hawthis continued to patrol many parts of Sana'a, especially around government buildings, and to search passers-by. Military and police blocked off the Hadda area, home to many diplomatic missions and expatriates.
Also on Saturday, suspected al Al-Qaida militants attacked a military vehicle in the southern province of Shabwa, killing two soldiers and wounding five, a local official told Reuters.
The army launched a campaign earlier this year to flush out Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants from their strongholds in the provinces of Shabwa and Abyan.
Against the backdrop of the fragmented political, tribal and sectarian scene, any escalation of the fighting could also allow an array of other factions, including southern separatists, former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh and even Al-Qaida to take advantage.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has said Yemen may be heading for civil war.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now