SANAA, Yemen – Yemeni Shiite rebels attacked and occupied the seat of power of an influential tribe in the capital Wednesday, following clashes that killed six of the guards and one fighter, security officials and rebel media said.
The rebels, known as Houthis, blamed the guards of al-Ahmar tribe for the clashes. Al-Masira TV station, allied with the Houthis, said the tribal fighters attacked a checkpoint erected by the rebels, setting off the clashes in the northern Sanaa district of Hassaba.
Residents said the clashes shook the neighborhood before daybreak. Pockmarks were visible on the gates of al-Ahmar palace where rebel gunmen were deployed. Glass from broken windows of the palace's facade littered the road.
The security officials said four al-Ahmar fighters and four rebels were injured in the clashes. The officials spoke anonymously because they are not authorized to brief reporters.
The attack early Wednesday is the latest move by the empowered Houthis to establish their control of Saana. The Houthis, supported by the ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, seized control of Sanaa in September and have since engaged in battles in different parts of Yemen with both rival tribes and Al Qaeda militants. The rebels are demanding a bigger share in power.
The tribe, traditional power brokers in Yemen, is allied with the Sunni Islamist Islah party against the rebels, locking the two sides into a bloody power struggle that has deepened the country's turmoil. Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen is considered among the most active in the world and has waged a relentless campaign against the government.
Meanwhile, al-Masira TV also reported that members of the local council of Omran, a province north of Sanaa, have sacked the governor appointed by the embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Houthis also overran Omran before moving in on the capital.
The officials spoke anonymously because they are not authorized to brief reporters.