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Upheaval in Yemen Continues as Deadly Clashes Break Out in Capital

Civilans face continued instability, violence

A view of Sanaa in 2007.  (Photo: Richard Messenger/flickr/cc)

A fragile ceasefire was reached but instability continues in Yemen's capital following deadly clashes between Shiite rebels and government forces.

BBC News reported:

On Monday morning, columns of black smoke rose from streets around the presidential palace and a military area south of it, as soldiers from the Presidential Guard and Houthi fighters fired heavy machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenades and artillery shells at each other's positions.

Information minister Nadia al-Saqqaf told reporters that the attack on the presidential palace constituted "an attempted coup."

CNN reports that the cause of the newest clashes was unclear:

Government officials characterize it as a power grab by the Houthis. Houthis say Yemen's military attacked people demanding that authorities lift road closures introduced as a security measure after the presidential chief of staff was abducted in Sanaa a few days ago.

Al Jazeera adds:

A deal signed in September between political parties and the Houthis called for the formation of a new unity government followed by the withdrawal of Houthi fighters from the capital. The fighters have remained in place.

The Houthis, who have launched attacks on al-Qaeda's Yemen branch, are viewed as Shia Iran's ally in its regional struggle for influence with Saudi Arabia.

The deputy health minister said that at least nine people were killed and scores were wounded in Monday's violence.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said earlier this month that the conflicts gripping other areas of the world caused little global attention to be given to Yemen, where he said "utterly deplorable" acts of violence plagued stability and took a terrible toll on civilians.

Indeed, an attack in Sanaa that killed at least 37 people on the same day as the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris carried out by suspected Islamist militants was largely overshadowed.

As tweets on Monday from Yemenis indicate, the newest violence marks the continuation of disaster for civilians in the impoverished nation:

In September, just ahead of the Houthis' seizure of the capital, President Obama lauded the U.S. military approach in Yemen targeting terrorists a success.

At the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Institute in December, April Longley Alley wrote that "the country appears poised for yet another round of upheaval, possibly more transformative than the events of 2011."

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