A complicated and highly unstable situation in Yemen has grown even more unstable in recent hours as reports say that Houthi rebels have attacked the country’s presidential palace, the president’s actual residence, and a “diplomatic vehicle” belonging to the United States.
A quick rundown on Yemen:
- The country is home to a number of factions, including the military-backed official government; Houthi rebels; al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, militants; and a southern secessionist movement that is largely nonviolent but whose protests have sometimes resulted in riots.
- The Houthis are Shiites, and AQAP are Sunnis, and they fight each other in addition to fighting the government.
- The Houthis took control of the country’s capital, Sanaa, in September. But rather than simply overthrowing the government, they agreed to a process intended to create a new constitution. That process has not gone smoothly.
- The United States backs the existing Yemeni government and conducts frequent attacks on al-Qaida targets in the country.
- AQAP may have planned and helped coordinate the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo.
The country’s information minister called today’s Houthi attacks on buildings used by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi a coup, while a rebel leader said they were a warning to the president, presumably in relation to issues at stake in the ongoing drafting of the new constitution. Hadi’s exact whereabouts are unclear. It also isn’t clear what motivated the attack on the American diplomatic vehicle, in which no injuries were reported.