Yemen's Houthi rebels block Sanaa airport road

#InsideYemen

Houthi protests against the government of President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi continue as the group and its supporters block the main road to Sanaa's international airport

Supporters of the Houthi rebels perform prayers on Friday during a rally in Sanaa (AFP)
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Thursday 12 February 2015 23:00 UTC
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Yemen's Shiite rebels and activists have blocked the main road leading to Sanaa airport as they widened their protest encampment pledging more demonstrations against the government.

The Houthis, also known as Zaidis or Ansarullah, have been pushing for the government's resignation, accusing it of corruption.

They have rejected overtures from President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi to name a new prime minister and reduce a disputed fuel price hike.

On Sunday, they pitched new tents blocking access to the ministries of electricity and telecommunications, located on Airport Road, where they have been demonstrating for weeks. They also blocked access from the capital to the international airport.

Authorities deployed anti-riot police around the nearby interior ministry, an AFP correspondent said.

The protesters erected cement roadblocks along the road to the airport and wore yellow bands on their wrists and across their foreheads as a "warning" sign to authorities.

A source close to the presidency told AFP the Houthis have submitted a list of demands, including "uprooting corruption" as well as "giving them more powers within the public prosecution, accountability panel, national security services and the intelligence."

They also demanded the president to "consult with them on naming the new prime minister" and the ministers of defence, interior, foreign and finance.

According to the presidential initiative, Hadi himself should name the four ministers.

Sunday's demonstrators carried portraits of Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad as well as those of the head of Lebanon's Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah movement Hassan Nasrallah and of Yemen's Shiite rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Houthi.

Authorities in Sunni-majority Yemen accuse Shiite-dominated Iran of backing the rebels and Hadi urged Tehran on Saturday to be "reasonable" in dealing with his country.

Banners at the Houthi sit-in Sunday vowed that the protests will "continue until the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government" a reference to the Sunni Al-Islam (reform) - or Islah - party. The rebels accuse the government of Prime Minister Mohamed Basindawa of close ties to Al-Islah.

Tribesmen linked to Al-Islah party have been fighting the rebels alongside government troops since last year.

Tribal sources said Sunday that fighting continued between army-backed tribes, allied with Al-Islah, and Houthis in the Ghayl and Majzar regions straddling Jawf and Marib provinces, east of the capital.

The sources said there were "casualties," but were not able to provide a toll. Thirty-four people were killed in similar clashes between Thursday and early Saturday.

Violence first erupted in the flashpoint Jawf province in April, resulting in casualties on both sides.

Analysts say the rebels are trying to establish themselves as the dominant political force in the northern highlands, where Shiites are the majority community. 

Houthi militants are also reportedly fighting for control of roads linking the capital Sanaa with the oil production province of Marib.

Yemen has been locked in a protracted transition since long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power in February 2012 after a deadly 11-month uprising.