Yemen’s Houthi rebels seize U.S. embassy vehicles

U.S. embassy staff in Yemen destroy weapons, computers and documents

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Armed Houthi rebels seized on Wednesday U.S. embassy vehicles after ambassador and diplomats left the country, Reuters reported local members of embassy staff as saying.

U.S. embassy staff destroyed weapons, computers and documents before closing and evacuating diplomats on Wednesday, local members of staff told Reuters.

U.S. Marines handed over their remaining weapons to Yemenis at the airport in the capital, Sanaa, before boarding commercial aircraft to leave the country following the closure of the U.S. embassy, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon said the Marines destroyed heavy weapons in their embassy arsenal, including machine guns, before leaving for the airport but remained armed with smaller weapons until the end to ensure a safe exit from the country.

"The movement from the embassy to the aircraft required armed Marines," Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said at a briefing.

The U.S. embassy closure and the evacuation of embassy personnel came after the Houthi militia group - which overran Sanaa in September - formally took power last week. The Sh'ite Muslim group is stridently anti-American and is backed by Iran.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, estimated that about 100 Marines made up the embassy contingent that left the country.

The United States, Britain and France have closed their embassies and evacuated staff as the security situation in Yemen has unraveled following the Houthis’ – also referred to as Ansar Allah – formal takeover of powerlast week with a series of constitutional declarations.

One of the decrees mandated the establishment of a transitional national council that would replace Yemen's parliament.

Another decree urged the establishment of a five-member presidential council, to be elected by transitional national assembly.

Other announcements called for amending the draft constitution before putting it to a national vote , setting a time frame of two years for the transitional phase, and forming a “supreme revolutionary committee” to administer provincial affairs.

The decrees have been met with resistance from a number of factions in Yemen and dismissed as illegitimate but some international powers such the European Union.

The European bloc issued a statement on Monday saying that is “gravely concerned by the unilateral so-called Constitutional declaration issued by Ansar Allah on 6 February, which it considers to have no legitimacy.”

The EU statement said an initiative by the Gulf Cooperation Council remains a reference for the solution to the crisis in the country.

(With Reuters)