Yemen sacks Sanaa police chief after killings

Seven people were reportedly killed in clashes between police and Huthi rebels

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The Yemeni government dismissed on Tuesday the director general of the capital Sanaa’s police force following the killing of seven people among Huthi protesters.

“Police fired live rounds at protesters, killing seven of them and wounding dozens,” Huthi rebel activist Khaled al-Madani told AFP.

The shooting erupted as Huthi protesters marched up to the government headquarters. The police first fired tear gas to try and disperse the crowds, then started shooting.

Huthi protesters have been camped out in the capital for weeks in a campaign to bring down the government and secure greater representation in state institutions.

Negotiations have failed to diffuse the standoff and the Huthis have kept up their rallies, camping out in the heart of Sanaa.

Meanwhile, Yemeni soldiers traded gunfire with armed Huthis near a military base at the southern entrance to the capital Sanaa on Tuesday, residents said.

A civilian was killed in the gun battle and both soldiers and rebels suffered several injuries, government sources said.

The fighting now threatens to bring into the capital a rebellion by Shi’ite Houthi tribes-people that until now been confined to the north.

Both sides vowed defiance on Monday, as the International Crisis Group think tank said Yemen’s political transition was at “a crossroads more dangerous than any since 2011,” when mass protests ousted veteran autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh and security around the country sharply deteriorated, according to Reuters.

“The Houthi group may not and cannot continue its escalation and its disturbance of the public tranquility and the undermining of security and stability in the capital,” said Salah’s successor, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Houthi leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi said: “We vow to continue in our position and dismiss any questioning of our intentions. The solution is to respond definitively to the popular demands, and we are serious in these demands.”

Separately, al-Qaeda militants detonated a car bomb at an army checkpoint in the eastern Hadramawt province, setting off a firefight in which three soldiers and 10 militants were killed, a local security source said, Reuters reported.

The United States and Yemen’s energy-rich Gulf neighbors fear for its stability as it battles al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the fiercest affiliates of the global militant group, and struggles with sectarian rifts that have led to warfare in other Arab countries.

[With AP and Reuters]

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