Shiite Islamists Seize Major City in Yemen, Hundreds Killed

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July 8 2014 4:55 PM

Shiite Islamists Seize Major City in Yemen, Hundreds Killed

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Yemenis protest outside the house of the county's president.

Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

Shiite Islamists have seized a major city in Yemen after days of fighting that have left at least 200 people dead, according to local authorities.

The Shiite Houthi fighters who took the city of Omran have been battling army brigades affiliated with the Sunni Muslim Islah party since last week after the latter group allegedly violated a June 23 ceasefire agreement proposed by the Yemeni defense ministry.* Reuters reports that the Houthi militants are now 31 miles away from Yemen’s capital Sanaa, though they have expressed no intention to attack it.

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Yemen has been embroiled in sectarian violence since former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted in 2012 after being in power for more than two decades. At the same time, as the New York Times says, the Arab nation has “increasingly become the heart of the American fight against terrorism” because of al-Qaida's influence there. The majority of Guatanamo Bay detainees have been Yemenis, Osama Bin Laden's bodyguards were recruited from Yemen, and the country served as a base for Yemeni-American cleric and former al-Qaida member Anwar al-Awlaki. Obama administration officials are struggling to build a better relationship with Saleh’s successor, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is affiliated with the centrist General People's Congress.

Update, Jan. 7, 2013: This sentence was revised to include the name of the city that was captured.

Irene Chidinma Nwoye is a writer and former Slate intern in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.

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