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Yemen rebels seize US weapons

February 11, 2015

The US, Britain and France have closed their embassies in Yemen as opponents and supporters of Houthi rebels clashed in the capital, Sanaa. The rebels have since claimed US vehicles and weapons.

Houthi protests
Image: Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

According to local employees, US diplomats destroyed documents, telecommunications equipment and other sensitive materials before evacuating their embassy in an increasingly unstable Yemen on Wednesday.

One employee told AFP new agency that they "destroyed everything they couldn't take with them," including numerous vehicles, which they crushed with a wrecking crane.

US officials said, however, that the closure of their embassy would not interfere.

Earlier on Wednesday Tobias Ellwood, the British Foreign Office's official responsible for the Middle East, also announced the closure of the British embassy and asked all British nationals to "leave immediately."

France followed suit shortly after, saying its Sanaa embassy would close as of Friday. In a statement on its website, the French embassy told French citizens to leave the country "as soon as possible."

Thousands of supporters of the mainly Shiite Houthi movement took to the streets of the capital later on Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In response, mass protests were held in Sana'a and the provinces of Taiz and Ibb, with participants denouncing what they referred to as the "Houthi coup," after the militia ousted Yemen's Western-backed president last week.

At Sana'a airport, officials said Houthi fighters securing the terminal had also confiscated weapons belonging to US marine guards who had left with embassy staff.

The rebels also took the vehicles that had brought the staff to the airport, the officials said.

ksb/rc (AFP, AFP, Reuters)

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