Yemen`s Hadi challenges Shiite `coup` after fleeing Sanaa

Yemen`s Western-backed president fled south to friendly territory Saturday, challenging a grab for power by the Shiite militia that had kept him under house arrest for weeks, calling it a coup.

Aden: Yemen`s Western-backed president fled south to friendly territory Saturday, challenging a grab for power by the Shiite militia that had kept him under house arrest for weeks, calling it a coup.

An aide said presidential guards had managed to sneak Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi out of his residence in Sanaa, and he later made it to the main southern city of Aden.

His supporters there have refused to recognise the authority of the presidential council installed by the Huthi militia to replace him.

Hadi issued a statement, signed as president, saying all measures taken by the Huthis since they seized Sanaa in September and began a push to extend their control further afield were "null and illegitimate".

The aide said Hadi will call on parliament to meet in Aden, as powerful tribes in the southern provinces of Marib, Jawaf and Baida urged him to declare Sanaa an "occupied city", a tribal source said.

He said Hadi "remains the legitimate president and that he resigned under pressure from Huthis".

Hadi called on world powers to "reject the coup".

The president`s resignation did not receive the parliamentary approval required under the constitution before the Huthis unilaterally dissolved all government institutions on February 6.

Hadi travelled overland in a convoy of dozens of vehicles, passing through Yemen`s third city Taez, a top security official in Aden said.A source in the presidential force said Huthi gunmen at Hadi`s residence were tricked into looting a vehicle carrying arms while Hadi was sneaked out of a back gate.

The aide insisted that Hadi left "without an arrangement or even informing any of the political parties".

The security official in Aden told AFP that Hadi was staying in a presidential residence in the port city`s Khormaksar diplomatic district.

The Huthis, whose power base is in the mainly Shiite northern highlands, overran Sanaa unopposed in September.

Last month, they seized the presidential palace and besieged Hadi`s residence, prompting him to offer to resign.

The Huthis have pushed their advance south and west of Sanaa into mainly Sunni areas, where they have met with fierce resistance from tribesmen and Al-Qaeda.

Hadi is a southerner, although he spent nearly three decades in the north. He served as defence minister and vice president before becoming president in 2012 when veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced from power by a year-long uprising.

He had always defended the 1990 union of the north with the formerly independent south where secessionist sentiment has risen sharply.

Most troops and militia in the area have pledged allegiance to him, and his supporters hailed his arrival in the former southern capital as a game-changer.Nadia Sakkaf, Hadi`s information minister, called for the revision of UN proposals for a political settlement that special envoy Jamal Benomar hailed only on Thursday as a "breakthrough".

"The political situation and the balance of power has changed after the arrival of Hadi in Aden," she wrote on Twitter.

Sakkaf said southern militiamen of the Popular Committees were ensuring Hadi`s safety.

They have taken control of most police stations and checkpoints in Aden and clashed with special police they accuse of cooperating with the Huthis.

Benomar had been shuttling between the Huthis and their opponents for weeks trying to forge a settlement.

On Thursday, he said the parties had agreed on a new legislative authority to engage the Huthis and southern separatists in an "important step towards achieving a comprehensive political agreement that would end the current crisis".

But Sanaa talks aimed at ironing out differences were suspended Saturday because of "new developments", the representative of youth groups to the talks, Bassem al-Hakimi, told AFP.

"Hadi`s exit has turned the table on all parties, especially those involved in talks," added political analyst Majed al-Modhaji.

Last weekend, the UN Security Council urged the Huthis to immediately and unconditionally engage in good faith in UN-brokered negotiations, withdraw their forces from government institutions and relinquish power.

It also demanded that the militia release Hadi, Prime Minister Khalid Bahah and other officials and activists under de facto house arrest or in detention.

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