British Yemen embassy staff withdrawn over security fears

Demonstrators in Yemen Image copyright Reuters

British diplomatic staff in Yemen have been withdrawn and the embassy closed due to the security situation in the country, the Foreign Office has said.

Embassy staff and its premises are at "increased risk" and all Britons who remain in Yemen should leave immediately, it said.

The US has also shut down its embassy in Yemen and evacuated its staff.

It comes as Shia Houthi rebels have taken over large parts of the country and crisis talks broke down this week.

"The security situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate over recent days," Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood said.

"Regrettably we now judge that our Embassy staff and premises are at increased risk.

"We have therefore decided to withdraw diplomatic staff and temporarily suspend the operations of the British Embassy in Sana'a. Our Ambassador and diplomatic staff have left Yemen this morning and will return to the UK."

'Until further notice'

The situation in Yemen escalated last month when the Houthis seized a key aide of President Hadi, in an attempt to block a draft constitution.

They later took the presidential palace and other key buildings, prompting Mr Hadi's resignation. He said he could not continue in his post under such pressure.

He and and other ministers have been under house arrest since then.

UN-organised crisis talks between the country's political factions broke down this week, with the two parties citing "threats" from Shia Houthi rebels.

The US Department of State has also suspended its embassy operations in the country and withdrew staff due to the "deteriorating security situation", a State Department travel warning said.

"All consular services, routine and/or emergency, have been suspended until further notice," it added.