Houthis take control of Central Bank of Yemen: sources

Yemen’s Houthi movement seized control of key government institutions in Sana’a on Wednesday, including the Central Bank and the Department of Civil Status and Civil Registration, directing a new blow to the already floundering authority of the central government headed by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Militants from the Houthi-affiliated Ansar Allah group stormed the Central Bank headquarters in Sana’a following clashes with security forces positioned in the area. Dozens from both sides were injured and killed during the fighting.

Militants sealed off the Central Bank, preventing employees from entering or leaving the premises, sources from the bank, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

A senior Central Bank official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, told Asharq Al-Awsat that after taking control of Sana’a in September, the Houthis had failed to convince Yemen’s central bank governor to cede control over the institution’s transactions to the movement. The source called on President Hadi to clarify his position on the situation in Yemen.

The Shi’ite movement has accused Hadi of illegally using government funds to finance media outlets affiliated with his son. Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, the movement’s leader, accused Hadi of being a leading player in political corruption in a speech in the capital on Monday.

Houthis also seized control of the headquarters of SAFER, Yemen’s largest state-run oil and gas company, and reportedly stormed the offices of the country’s largest state-run newspaper Al-Thawra and expelled the editor-in-chief, who they accused of corruption.

Armed members of the movement also took control of the government’s civil status department in Sana’a, in what security sources said was a “grave step.”

“[The] Houthis’ control of [the department’s] records is a serious precedent and will enable them to access all the data and national [ID] numbers of citizens,” a former Interior Ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“This would not happen without the help of the supporters of the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh,” the official said, echoing what has in recent months become a widespread belief among Yemenis about the reasons behind the Houthis’ smooth takeover of almost all government institutions.

Saleh agreed to step down at the beginning of 2012 in the face of massive public protests against his rule but remained leader of Yemen’s former ruling party, the General People’s Congress. Since then, he has repeatedly faced accusations of attempting to manipulate events in Yemen from behind the scenes.

Also on Wednesday, the Houthis suspended maritime traffic at the Al-Hudaydah seaport, Yemen’s second largest port, and banned chairman of Yemen Red Sea Ports Corporation Mohammed Ishaq from entering its headquarters.

“Houthi militants shut down the Al-Hudaydah seaport for several hours and prevented its chairman from entering while Houthi commander Abu Ali Al-Hakem visited the seaport, accompanied by militants,” a Al-Hudaydah source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Shi’ite group accuses Ishaq of being a member of the Al-Islah Party, a largely-Sunni opponent, and of hiding the private yacht of Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin Al-Ahmar, a former senior military commander who served under Saleh, the source maintained.

Workers at the seaport protested against the presence of Houthis, prompting Al-Hudaydah’s new governor, recently appointed by the movement, to step in, in a bid to restore calm.

Asharq Al-Awsat