Yemen’s Huthis free top presidential aide


SANAA - Shiite militiamen freed Tuesday a top aide to Yemen's president, whose kidnapping deepened the country's crippling political crisis, said a person who helped mediate the release.
President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's chief of staff Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak was handed over to a committee of mediators, 10 days after he was abducted, Hussam al-Shargabi said.
Mubarak was later taken to the Sanaa residence of a tribal chief from Sabwa, the same southern province from which he hails.
The Shiite militia, known as Huthis, have controlled most of the Yemeni capital since September 21.
After they seized the presidential palace last week, Hadi tendered his resignation along with Prime Minister Khalid Bahah, saying he could not stay in office as the country was in "total deadlock."
In a televised speech Tuesday, militia chief Abdulmalik al-Huthi described Hadi's resignation as a manoeuvrer aimed at imposing certain conditions on ground. He did not elaborate.
He also called for an "extraordinary and historical" meeting Friday of all political, social, and tribal forces in Yemen "to review the political and security situation and come up with important decisions."
Mubarak's release comes a day after UN envoy Jamel Benomar met with Huthi leaders, as he sought to broker an agreement following Hadi's offer to resign.
In a statement on Facebook, Benomar voiced his happiness at Mubarak's release, urging the Huthis to "take all measures that could reassure other political groups and the Yemeni people."
Mubarak's release "will ease tensions and will push forward dialogue," he said.
Mubarak was abducted January 17, apparently in a bid by the militia to extract changes to provisions of a draft constitution they opposed.
- Power-sharing deal 'possible' -
The Huthis had been due to release him immediately under a deal struck six days ago, but kept him captive until Tuesday.
Under the deal, they also pledged to vacate the presidential palace, withdraw from areas surrounding the residences of Hadi and Bahah, and abandon checkpoints across Sanaa, in return for concessions over the draft constitution.
Benomar said Hadi and his cabinet were effectively under house arrest, and warned violence could erupt at any time.
But he added that a power-sharing deal "was possible," according to two diplomats who attended a session during which he briefed the UN Security Council by video link from Sanaa.
The crisis has raised fears that Yemen, which lies next to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, could become a failed stated.
Meanwhile, the 57 MPs from Yemen's south announced they will boycott the 301-member parliament in protest at the Huthis' "coup" and actions in Sanaa, holding the militia "completely responsible" for the safety of Hadi and other officials in Sanaa.
On Sunday, parliament again postponed a session to consider Hadi's resignation. And four political parties negotiating with the Huthis to bring the country out of crisis announced later the same day they were ending contact with the militia.
Huthi criticised the "provocative acts by some southern forces that lead to chaos."
Witnesses and southern armed pro-government militia known as "Popular Committees" clashed Tuesday with troops loyal to the Huthis, in the main southern city of Aden, witnesses and militiamen there told AFP, without reporting casualties.
Meanwhile, the US embassy in Sanaa announced Monday that it was closed to the public until further notice over security concerns.