Middle East

Yemen crisis: Rebel actions 'illegitimate', says ex-president

A protester holds up a poster of Yemen's former president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi during an anti-Houthi demonstration in Sanaa Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Hadi still has supporters, such as these at an anti-Houthi demonstration in Sanaa

Yemen's ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi has accused the Houthi militia that seized power last month of staging a coup.

In his first statement since escaping house arrest in the capital Sanaa, Mr Hadi said all measures taken by the Houthis were "null and illegitimate".

Speaking from his political stronghold in the southern city of Aden, he said he was still the president.

He called upon world powers "to reject the coup".

He had spent weeks under house arrest in Sanaa after the Houthis forced him to resign.

His escape came a day after rival parties agreed on the formation of a governing transitional council.

Yemen has been in crisis since the takeover by the Houthis, a Shia group.

Rebels 'tricked'

In the statement, which he signed as "president of the republic", Mr Hadi called for a national commission to oversee the drafting of a new constitution.

He also called on military and security forces to protect the constitutional government.

UN mediator Jamal Benomar announced a preliminary accord between feuding factions earlier this week and hailed it as "an important step".

It is not clear why Mr Hadi was allowed to leave his home on Saturday. Aides close to the former president told the Associated Press news agency that he was freed after pressure from the UN, the US, Russia and local political parties.

Mr Hadi is said to be at his home in a district of Aden.

Yemen's Houthis

Image copyright AP
  • Follow Zaidism, a branch of Shia Islam
  • Launched an insurgency against the government in 2004 to fight for greater autonomy in their northern home province and to protect Zaids
  • Named after Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, who led the first uprising. His brother Abdul now leads the group
  • Accused of being proxies for Iran, something both deny
  • Joined the protests in 2011 that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
  • Control much of northern Yemen but their influence is limited elsewhere.

Who are the Houthis?

His residence in Sanaa was looted after he left, witnesses said.

A source in the Sanaa presidential force said Houthi gunmen had been tricked into looting a vehicle carrying weapons, allowing Mr Hadi to sneak out of a back gate, the AFP news agency reports.

Mr Hadi's supporters in Aden have so far refused to recognise what they denounce as a political coup.

Last week, the governors of the provinces of Aden, Lahij and Mahra demanded the reinstatement of Mr Hadi and reaffirmed their support for Yemen becoming a federation of six regions.

Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in September, before capturing the presidential palace and placing Mr Hadi under house arrest. He then quit his presidential post, saying he could not continue under such pressure.

The Houthis dissolved parliament and installed a five-member "presidential council" on 6 February.

This sparked security concerns that saw several Arab and Western states close their embassies and remove diplomats.

Since overrunning Sanaa, the Houthis have expanded their control to coastal areas and regions south of the capital.

Their takeover was denounced as a coup by rival political factions and prompted mass protests, mainly from the country's Sunni majority.

The Houthis have also faced fierce resistance from Sunni tribes and al-Qaeda militants.