Yemenis protest after chief of staff abduction
Shia Houthi insurgents have taken over large swaths of the capital Sanaa and surrounding countryside, plunging Yemen into some of the worst violence its seen in years. (AFP/File)
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Government facilities shut down Sunday in Yemen's southern Ataq city, the hometown of Presidential Chief-of-Staff Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, in protest over the latter's kidnapping a day earlier by the Shiite Houthi group.
Civil servants in Ataq, the capital of Shabwah province, have responded to a call by provincial authorities to close down government buildings to pressure the Houthis to release bin Mubarak, local residents told The Anadolu Agency.
On Saturday evening, Shabwah's tribal leaders threatened to halt oil production in the province if the Houthis did not release bin Mubarak within 24 hours.
Bin Mubarak was abducted on Saturday while en route to the presidential palace to attend a ceremony marking the issuance of a new draft constitution when the gunmen forced him to go with them, an abduction later claimed by the Houthi group.
Prior to the Houthi's claim of responsibility for the abduction, armed vigilantes affiliated with the Houthis said they were "forced to detain" bin Mubarak, claiming that the act was aimed to "sabotage any attempts to renege on a peace and partnership agreement" reached among Yemen's political forces and President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in September of last year.
The deal, signed only hours before the Houthi militants seized Sanaa, called on the Houthis to pull their militants out of the city.
Nevertheless, the Houthis extended their control in Sanaa and to other provinces across Yemen, pitting themselves against Sunni tribes and al-Qaeda, which is said to be active in parts of Yemen.
Following bin Mubarak's abduction, the Houthi-linked vigilantes called on Hadi to stop offering cover or "corruption" and "despotism."
Houthis have turned into a significant political and military power in Yemen after taking over Sanaa and then moving to extend their control to other Yemeni provinces.
Yemen in general has been suffering growing instability since 2011 when a popular uprising ousted long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh a year later.