A member of the Shiite Huthi movement in an army uniform guards a checkpoint on a street leading to the presidential palace in the Yemen capital Sanaa on February 6, 2015
A member of the Shiite Huthi movement in an army uniform guards a checkpoint on a street leading to the presidential palace in the Yemen capital Sanaa on February 6, 2015 © Mohammed Huwais - AFP
A member of the Shiite Huthi movement in an army uniform guards a checkpoint on a street leading to the presidential palace in the Yemen capital Sanaa on February 6, 2015
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AFP
Last updated: February 9, 2015

Militia forms 'security commission' after Yemen takeover

Yemen's Shiite Huthi militia on Saturday formed a "security commission", consolidating its grip on power after a takeover denounced by opponents as a "coup" and condemned by the international community.

The declaration was followed by a blast outside the Huthi-controlled presidential palace that wounded two people including a civilian, and a protest by thousands of people on the streets of Yemeni cities, witnesses said.

Gunmen loyal to the Shiite Muslim militia, also known as Ansarullah, fired into the air to disperse demonstrators in the capital and made at least 17 arrests.

It was a second successive day of anti-Huthi protests in Yemen after the militia dissolved parliament and created a "presidential council" Friday in a move it said was designed to fill a power vacuum.

Yemen's Gulf neighbours on Saturday condemned the Huthi actions, which they said "totally undermine" international and regional efforts to help resolve the impoverished country's political crisis.

"The Huthi coup marks a grave and unacceptable escalation... and endangers the security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen," said the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council.

The six Sunni monarchies said their own security was linked to that of their neighbour Yemen and vowed to take "all the necessary measures to defend their interests", without elaborating.

The Shiite militia overran Sanaa in September and seized the presidential palace and key government buildings last month, prompting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahah to tender their resignations.

In its announcement on Saturday, the Huthi movement said Hadi's defence minister, General Mahmud al-Subaihi, would chair its newly formed security commission, which also included the outgoing interior minister.

The security commission "will lead the country's affairs until the establishment of a presidential council", the Huthis said in a statement published by the official Saba news agency, which they seized in January.

- Consolidating power -

But Subaihi's entourage reacted to the appointment with mistrust because the general is considered close to Hadi, and suggested he had been forced into accepting the post.

The Huthis' move on Friday to tighten its grip on power triggered angry condemnation inside Yemen from powerful Sunni Muslim tribes, which branded it a "coup".

The Huthis celebrated with fireworks in Sanaa and in their northern stronghold of Saada, despite protests in the capital, second city Aden and third city Taez.

Huthi television channel Al-Massira said militia chief Abdel Malek al-Huthi would address supporters later Saturday during celebrations in Sanaa's northern suburbs.

The Huthis have said they will set up a national council of 551 members to replace the legislature in the violence-wracked country, a key US ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda.

The five-member presidential council would form a transitional government to govern for two years.

The announcement came after a Wednesday deadline set by the militia for political parties to resolve the crisis passed with no agreement, and also included the creation of a "revolutionary council".

UN envoy Jamal Benomar, who has been striving to seek a negotiated solution to the crisis, was back in Sanaa on Saturday and expected to meet members of the revolutionary council, Saba reported.

Friday's declaration by the Huthis bore the signature of Mohammad Ali al-Huthi and described him as "the president of the revolutionary council".

Influential tribal leaders in the oil-rich eastern province of Marib said they "rejected the authors of this coup".

A US official at a security conference in Munich said the United States and its GCC allies "don't agree" with the Huthi "presidential council".

And Liu Jieyi, president of the UN Security Council, said its 15 members were ready to "take further steps" if negotiations to halt the unrest were not resumed "immediately".

Yemen has been riven by instability since the Arab Spring-inspired uprising that forced autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power in 2012.

There has been no immediate reaction from Saleh to the latest Huthi announcements, although he has been accused of backing the militia, as has Shiite-dominated Iran.

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