Skip to main content

Yemen's president escapes Sanaa: Hadi do it?

Yemen's embattled leader fled the capital last night after weeks under house arrest. How did he do it?
Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi speaking with his Russia's counterpart Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Moscow (AFP)

On Friday night Yemen's president, who resigned last month under pressure from Houthi rebels, fled his residence in the capital, eluding the Shiite militiamen who for weeks had held him under house-arrest.

After travelling south in a convoy of vehicles with his family, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who replaced former autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012, is now residing in a presidential compound in the port city of Aden.

Hadi’s flight from the capital has prompted speculation that the former army general may be about to restake his claim to the presidency, a move that would pose a major challenge to the Houthis, the country’s most powerful political faction.

The question on the lips of many Yemenis for now is how exactly Hadi got away?

An initial report by Reuters news agency suggested that the United Nations, who are trying to broker a deal between the Houthis and other political parties, may have facilitated Hadi's flight.

But the UN’s envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, quickly denied any involvement.

Others speculated that the Houthis themselves may have freed Hadi after coming under pressure from the US and Russia.

Statements by the Houthis leaders, however, suggested they were unaware of the heist.

Hadi's residence in Sanaa, a heavily-fortified building next to a five-lane highway that rings the capital had been surrounded by gunmen loyal to the Houthis for weeks.

The editor of a pro-Houthi television channel accused Hadi’s physician of facilitating his escape by disguising the former president in a women’s veil.

A New York Times piece on the other hand suggested he may have eloped in a food truck.

Waiting to see if Hadi would address the nation, some Yemenis mocked the affair on social media, likening it to "a Bollywood movie".