Yemeni military officials say Shiite have seized a key central province, just days after formally taking over power in the country.

The officials say the Houthi rebels, aided by troops loyal to the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, took full control of Bayda province on Tuesday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to talk to reporters.

Bayda is the gateway to the country's south, which remains in the hands of the pro-independence southerners and to the strategic oil-rich Maarib province, to the east, also still not in rebel hands.

Last week, the Houthis dissolved parliament and formally took over. They also put President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his Cabinet ministers under house arrest. Hadi and the ministers have since resigned in protest.