The British embassy in Yemen closed today and all staff were evacuated amid escalating unrest following the seizing of power by Shia rebels in the Arab world’s poorest country.
British expats in the country have been urged to “leave immediately” in a statement issued by Tobias Ellwood, the UK Minister for the Middle East.
The US embassy was also evacuated and shut in the capital Sanaa due to security concerns. Yemeni military police have been guarding the building.
Ellwood said: “The security situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate over recent days.
“Regrettably we now judge that our embassy staff and premises are at increased risk.”
Yemen, where 39 per cent of citizens live below the poverty line, has been in turmoil since rebels surrounded the home of president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and forced him to step down last month. Prime minister Mohammed Basindawa resigned last September.
Houthi Shia rebels, who have denied that they are backed by the Islamic Republic country of Iran, have assumed control of the government in Sanaa.
US officials said yesterday that the embassy closure would not affect counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which America views as the most dangerous of the terror organisation.
The United Nations has been trying to broker talks between the Houthis and other groups since the rebels dissolved parliament after besieging the country’s president, who later resigned while armed militants surrounded his home.
Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, who leads the hard-line Shia group and now serves as president, warned his enemies yesterday not to stand in his movement’s way and denounced foreign governments for removing their diplomats.
“We will not accept pressures. They are of no use,” al-Houthi said in speech broadcast on the group’s own al-Masirah satellite television network.
“Whoever harms the interest of this country could see that their interests in this country are also harmed.”
Al-Houthi offered no explanation for what specific action he might take in retaliation.Reuse content