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Houthi rebels seize major Yemen port town Hodeida

The port city of Hodeida, which rests on the strategically key, Bab al-Mandab strait, has fallen to Houthi rebels
Houthi rebels celebrate the capture of the capital last month (AFP)

Yemeni rebels have captured the Red Sea city of Hodeida, home to the country’s second most important port, just weeks after seizing the capital, a security official said on Tuesday.

The Houthi rebels met little resistance as they swept into Hodeida, located 226 kilometres west of the capital Sana’a, taking over its air and sea ports, the official said.

It came hours after President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi named a new prime minister late on Monday in a fresh bid to end the impoverished country’s crippling political crisis.

“Houthi militants are deployed across vital installations, including the airport and the port,” said the security official.

He said a security guard was killed when the rebels seized a court in the city, which is home to more than two million people.

Military and rebel sources confirmed that Houthi rebels were seen deployed across main roads in Hodeida.

Houthi militiamen stormed into Sana’a on 21 September, easily seizing key government installations, and they now man checkpoints and run patrols across the capital in almost total absence of the security forces.

Military sources had warned that the rebels were looking to take control of Hodeida and to extend their presence to the narrow Bab al-Mandab strait, which leads to the Suez Canal.

The rebels, who are also known as Ansarullah and have fought the central government for more than a decade, already had thousands of armed men in Hodeida.

Yemen has been wracked by political turmoil and sporadic violence since the 2012 toppling of strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, with rebels and militants battling to exploit a power vacuum and seize control of territory.

Hadi on Monday named an envoy to the UN, Khalid Bahah, as the new premier, after the rebels rejected an earlier choice.

Bahah’s nomination appeared to have the support of Al Houthi rebels, and the appointment of a neutral prime minister was seen as a key step in persuading them to withdraw from Sana’a.

Yemen, located next to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and key shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden, is a key US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda.

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