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Yemen rebels give politicians 3 days to fill power vacuum

February 1, 2015

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Rebels who control Yemen’s capital have given a three-day ultimatum for political forces to fill a power vacuum, otherwise they will take over themselves, they said Sunday.

The rebels, known as Houthis, announced the decision on their al-Masirah television station, as the final statement from a political summit they have been holding in a sports stadium since Friday to organize “a peaceful transfer of power.”

Impoverished Yemen, home to a formidable al-Qaida affiliate, has been leaderless since Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi resigned the presidency last month after the Houthis pressured him for a greater share of power and besieged his home.

A day earlier, an official close to Hadi said he would not reconsider his resignation, despite pressure for him to do so by the Houthis, who he said are holding him “at gunpoint.” They have kept him under de facto house arrest since earlier this month.

The Houthis control all major government buildings in Sanaa, as well as a number of key military facilities including the headquarters of the paramilitary special forces and air force.

A main movement representing southerners has already withdrawn from a U.N. sponsored dialogue with the Houthis, calling them ‘absurd’ and demanding that the rebels release Hadi and allow the country’s parliament to convene normally.

Later in the day, armed Houthis, who have controlled Sanaa since September, broke up a protest against them at the city’s main university, detaining several people. They hold around a dozen activists in the capital, after releasing some two dozen others in recent days.

In the southern city of Ibb, witnesses said two men on a motorcycle shot dead a Houthi leader, Abdullah al-Ayani. They declined to give their names for fear of retribution.

The governor of the southern port city of Aden said in a statement that he rejected any calls for separatism or sectarianism.

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Rohan reported from Cairo.

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