Thousands of followers of a Shiite rebel movement in Yemen rallied on Monday in the capital Sana’a, blocking major roads as part of escalating protests aimed at forcing the government to step down.
Backers of the Shiite rebel Houthi movement gathered at the Change Square in central Sana’a before marching onward and crippling traffic on main roads.
“There are other steps that we may resort to in the next days until authorities respond to people’s demands,” Mohammed al-Bekheti, an official in the pro-Houthi Ansar Allah group, told dpa.
The protests were in response to a call by the Houthis’ leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houti, who Sunday urged his followers to start a new campaign of civil disobedience.
Last month, al-Houthi’s backers pitched protest tents around key ministries and the Sana’a international airport.
The Houthis are demanding the resignation of the government and the reversal of recent increases in fuel prices.
On Friday, the UN Security Council called on the Houthis to stop hostilities against the government in the impoverished country, which is struggling with al-Qaeda insurgency and a secessionist movement in the south.
The Houthis have expanded their influence from the far north to Sana’a since the beginning of the year, apparently after winning the support of major tribes previously sympathetic to their Sunni rivals.
The Houthis have been fighting government forces in Amran, just north-east of Sana’a, in recent months, prompting President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi to hold a series of meetings in which he has urged tribal leaders from the outskirts of the capital to defend its approaches.
Authorities have repeatedly accused the Houthis of trying to reinstall the rule of hereditary Ziaidi imams – who were toppled by a republican revolution in northern Yemen in 1962 – and of receiving support from Iran. SAPA