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Yemen Truce Falters, PM's Home Surrounded

  • VOA News

Houthi Shi'ite Yemeni show their weapons during clashes near the presidential palace in Sana'a, Yemen, Jan. 19, 2015.

Houthi Shi'ite Yemeni show their weapons during clashes near the presidential palace in Sana'a, Yemen, Jan. 19, 2015.

Yemen's government says Houthi militia surrounded the prime minister's residence in the capital late Monday, hours after agreeing to a truce meant to end a day of fighting between government forces and the rebels.

Prime Minister Khaled Bahah was inside the Republican Palace, on Sana'a's Tahrir Square, at the time, a government spokesman said. If the Houthi had demands, they weren't immediately made public.

Earlier in the day, Baha escaped without injury when Houthi forces attacked the prime minister's convoy as it left the presidential palace.

Sana'a, Yemen

Sana'a, Yemen

Witnesses reported that heavy gunfire and explosions followed, sending civilians fleeing from the area. Officials said at least three people were killed.

There were conflicting reports that rebels were in control of the building housing the state news agency, Saba, and state television.

Residents near the presidential palace confirmed that the fighting had subsided by late Monday.

Earlier, Yemen's official government spokeswoman, Nadia al-Saqqaf, had insisted a cease-fire had been agreed upon but said the situation was fluid.

The clashes raised international concern, with the Arab League and the British and U.S. embassies calling for an immediate end to the fighting.

Minorities seek broader rights

Houthi forces, calling for greater rights for Yemen's Zaidi Shi'ite minority, overran the capital in September and later signed a deal calling for a new government.

On Saturday, Houthis kidnapped President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi's chief of staff to disrupt a meeting on crafting a new constitution.

Yemen has been wracked by internal divisions as the Houthi movement has spread beyond its traditional rebellion in the north, separatists continue to press their cause in the south, and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claims attacks both at home and abroad. The al-Qaida affiliate asserted responsibility for the massacre earlier this month at the Paris headquarters of the satirical newsweekly Charlie Hebdo.

Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo. Some material for this report came from Reuters and AFP.