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Militias attack Yemen president’s private home

By Yara Bayoumy and Mohammed Ghobari

Militia fighters bombarded the private residence of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Tuesday in an effort to overthrow the goverment, the country’s information minister said.

The attack followed some of the worst fighting in the capital Sanaa in years on Monday, when guards loyal to Hadi fought artillery battles near the presidential palace with the powerful Houthi movement, which has been in dispute with Hadi over political and constitutional issues.

“Yemeni president under attack by armed militias seeking the overthrow of the ruling system,” Information Minister Nadia al-Saqqaf said on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

Residents said later the fighting had died down.

The minister did not specifically identify the militias but she said they were firing from nearby houses. Hadi lives in his private home and not in the palace.

A government official said two people were killed in the fighting.

Earlier on Tuesday, Houthi fighters had entered Yemen’s presidential palace after a brief clash with security guards, witnesses and security sources told Reuters.

A Houthi leader denied that fighters had gone into the presidential palace to control it and said they were protecting the compound from security personnel who were trying to steal weapons.

The Houthis seized Sanaa in September, began dictating terms to an enfeebled Hadi, and advanced into central and western regions of Yemen where Sunni Muslims predominate.

The Houthis want more rights for the country’s Zaydi Shi’ite sect and say they are campaigning against corruption.

Widely seen as an ally of Iran in its regional struggle for influence with Saudi Arabia, the Houthis said on Monday they would escalate the situation if their demands in a dispute over a draft constitution were not met.

Nine people were killed and 90 wounded in Monday’s clashes before a ceasefire came into effect.

The chaos in Sanaa added a further element to instability in Yemen, long been plagued by tribal divisions, a separatist challenge in the south and the threat from a regional wing of al Qaeda, which claimed responsibilty for the Jan. 7 attacks in Paris.

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