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US watching Yemen crisis, no embassy closure ordered

Washington was closely monitoring a crisis in key ally Yemen on Wednesday after Shiite militants appeared to tighten their grip on the capital and officials revealed a US diplomatic vehicle was attacked.



Washington: Washington was closely monitoring a crisis in key ally Yemen on Wednesday after Shiite militants appeared to tighten their grip on the capital and officials revealed a US diplomatic vehicle was attacked.

President Barack Obama "is being updated by his national security team," a senior administration official told AFP, as the government of President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi teetered.

"We strongly condemn the violence and those stoking it in an effort to disrupt Yemen`s political transition," said the official who asked not to be named, adding that the US was supporting "efforts to bring about a peaceful solution."

The US military is ready to evacuate American diplomats and other personnel from Yemen, defense officials told AFP, but the State Department has so far not ordered the embassy to close.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki revealed a US diplomatic vehicle had come under attack late Tuesday at a checkpoint near the embassy.

"Huthi gunmen at the checkpoint opened fire on the vehicle, but no injuries were sustained," she told reporters, adding an investigation had been opened.

But she stressed "there has not been a change at this point in our security posture on the ground."

The US embassy in Sanaa has been operating on reduced staffing since September when the powerful militia, known as the Huthi, seized almost all of the capital.

Even though the militia seized Hadi`s offices and attacked his residence, Psaki insisted the president remained in charge as the "legitimate leader." 

US officials were in touch with him and continued to work towards a ceasefire and "to ease tensions."

Washington believed there was "value in having a strong presence in Yemen, in part because of our continuing work on counterterrorism efforts," Psaki added.

She refused to term the political upheavals "a coup" however, saying it was not the right time to make a legal analysis of the situation. 

Two amphibious ships with US Marines on board, the USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry, are in the region however and available if needed, defense officials, said.

The Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship, had recently moved through the Strait of Hormuz from the Gulf and was ordered to stay off the coast of Yemen as a precaution. 

Washington could also opt to use aircraft from airfields in Djibouti or elsewhere in the region for an evacuation.

At least 35 people have been killed in two days of violence and more than 90 injured. 

Yemen`s government is seen as a key ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda, which has long operated in the unstable Gulf nation.

The United States has for years provided military assistance to Yemen`s security forces battling Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and carried out drone strikes against the group.

From Zee News

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