MOSCOW, October 16 (RIA Novosti) — Houthi militants continue to expand their control of Yemen’s territory further south, capturing today the city of Ibb, while fighters of the local Al-Qaeda branch seized the town of Udain only 20 km away. Shi’a and Sunni extremists may soon open Full-scale hostilities may soon commence between Shi’a and Sunni extremists, plunging the nation into a sectarian civil war.
Houthi rebels, originating from northern Yemen, have seized more territory south of the nation’s capital Sanaa today, including the town of Ibb. The Shi’a militants arrived in Ibb Wednesday, Al-Jazeera reports. The rebels occupied the city without any resistance from local police or residents, similar to when they captured the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah Tuesday, as reported by Reuters.
Houthi rebels had captured Sanaa on September 21, and have largely taken unofficial control over the government’s ministries, while the militants continue to infiltrate the nation’s military and police. Reuters reports that Houthi fighters are increasingly becoming Yemen’s primary political power.
However, a local branch of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has occupied the town of Udain today. It is located only 20 km west of Ibb. During the siege the militants killed five local policemen and burned the police headquarters. Currently, AQAP controls a large part of the southern and southeastern provinces of Yemen. Local officials say Sunni fighters captured Udain to balance and contain the Houthi advance on Ibb, reports AFP.
Al-Qaeda militants and Houthi fighters engaged in combat in the town of Radda Wednesday, leaving several dead on both sides. Later that day, Al-Qaeda fighters advanced to the town of Odein, which they occupied after a brief skirmish with Houthis and local police. As a result of these recent events, all out war between the Houthis and AQAP is likely.
The Shi'a Houthi militants have known links to Iran, a troubling connection for their Sunni neighbor Saudi Arabia. The Houthi have aligned themselves with Tehran, Damascus, Baghdad and Hezbollah and their siezure of power in Yemen is a growing threat to the area heavily dominated by the Sunnis. If they were to clash with AQAP it would have serious consequences for the Middle East and will represent a further descent into chaos for the region.