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Yemen's President Flees Palace As Rebels Continue Advance

People seek shelter amid gunfire at an army base in Yemen's southern port city of Aden on Wednesday.
Reuters /Landov
People seek shelter amid gunfire at an army base in Yemen's southern port city of Aden on Wednesday.

Houthi rebels in Yemen are advancing on the southern port city of Aden amid reports that embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has fled his palace there for an undisclosed location.

Events are unfolding quickly in Yemen, and there are conflicting accounts as to whether Hadi has left the country. The airport in Aden is closed and all flights canceled.

The rebels had offered a bounty for Hadi's arrest, and several hours later launched airstrikes targeting forces guarding the president's palace, according to The Associated Press. The news agency reports that Yemen's state television, now controlled by the Houthis, said the rebels have seized an airbase that was critical to U.S. drone operations against al-Qaida. The base is just 35 miles from Aden.

On Tuesday, Hadi appealed to the U.N. Security Council to authorize a military intervention to prevent Yemen from "sliding into more chaos and destruction," according to the Guardian. Hadi has been in Aden since the Houthis took control of the capital Sanaa in September, pushing him from power.

Reuters news agency reports that Saudi Arabia is moving heavy military equipment, including artillery, to its border with Yemen. Saudi Arabia says the buildup at the border is purely defensive.

The increasing chaos in Yemen could set up a front between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran. Government officials say Houthi rebels are backed by Iran, something the rebel group denies.

The ongoing volatile political and security situation has forced the U.S. to pull all its remaining personnel — civilian, military and intelligence — out of the country. The move could have an impact on U.S counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, considered one of the most dangerous offshoots of the terror group.

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