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In first speech, defiant Yemen president challenges Shiite rebels who once held him captive

  • Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat, Yemen's favorite drug, as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen, Saturday, March 21, 2015. Yemen's Shiite rebels issued a call to arms Saturday to battle forces loyal to the embattled President Hadi, as U.S. troops evacuated a southern air base over al-Qaida militants seizing a nearby city, authorities said. (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi)

    Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat, Yemen's favorite drug, as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen, Saturday, March 21, 2015. Yemen's Shiite rebels issued a call to arms Saturday to battle forces loyal to the embattled President Hadi, as U.S. troops evacuated a southern air base over al-Qaida militants seizing a nearby city, authorities said. (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi)  (The Associated Press)

  • Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat, Yemen's favorite drug, as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen, Saturday, March 21, 2015. Yemen's Shiite rebels issued a call to arms Saturday to battle forces loyal to the embattled President Hadi, as U.S. troops evacuated a southern air base over al-Qaida militants seizing a nearby city, authorities said. (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi)

    Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat, Yemen's favorite drug, as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen, Saturday, March 21, 2015. Yemen's Shiite rebels issued a call to arms Saturday to battle forces loyal to the embattled President Hadi, as U.S. troops evacuated a southern air base over al-Qaida militants seizing a nearby city, authorities said. (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi)  (The Associated Press)

In his first speech since fleeing the capital, Yemen's embattled president has struck a defiant stance, challenging the Shiite rebels who once held him captive.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said Saturday that the Houthi rebels' rule in Sanaa and elsewhere in Yemen is "a coup against constitutional legitimacy."

Speaking from Aden, Hadi declared the city a "temporary capital" for the Arab world's poorest country. He also addressed the leader of the rebels, Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, telling him to stop trying to trick the Yemeni people.

Hadi accused Iran of backing the rebels, a claim the rebels deny.

Hadi escaped house arrest in Sanaa last month. The Houthis have taken over Sanaa and nine of the country's 21 provinces over the past six months, raising fears of a civil war.