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Fighting Rages in Southern Yemen Amid Sana'a Protests

Thousands protest against Houthis in Sana'a, Yemen, Feb. 11, 2015. (Photo: Z. al-Alyaa for VOA)

Tens of thousands of Yemenis protested Saturday against the country's takeover by the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi movement. In the central town of Ibb, Houthi gunmen fired on protesters, wounding four of them.

In southern Yemen, in mountainous al-Bayda province, heavy fighting has continued between Houthi rebels and Sunni tribesmen, many of whom are allied with local al-Qaida groups. Security sources say at least 26 people have been killed since Friday — 16 Houthis and 10 tribesmen.

Yemen shares a long border with Saudia Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, and also has been fighting against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The United States has supported the campaign against al-Qaida with drone strikes — missile attacks by unmanned aircraft targeting militants.

Diplomats' exodus from Yemen continued Saturday. The Netherlands, Spain and the United Arab Emirates are the latest countries to shut down embassy operations in Sana'a and evacuate their diplomats. Saudi Arabia, Italy, Germany, the United States, France and Britain previously have closed their embassies in Yemen.

What some have called Yemen's descent into chaos during the past week has isolated the country's new Houthi rulers and lent urgency to struggling talks over internal power-sharing they are conducting with opposition parties.

Since seizing power earlier this month, the Houthis have dissolved parliament and set up their own ruling body. They say they are carrying out a "revolution" against corrupt officials and economic ruin. The ousted president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, and his Cabinet ministers remain under rebel house arrest.

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