Yemen rebels seize U.S. Embassy vehicles as diplomats flee

By Kim Hjelmgaard and Jane Onyanga-Omara, USA Today

In the wake of a takeover by Shiite rebels seizing power in Yemen, the US and UK close embassies in Sanaa. Diplomatic personnel relocated. (Feb 11) AP

Yemen rebels seized U.S. Embassy vehicles in the capital of Sanaa on Wednesday as diplomats fled the country and several foreign embassies closed amid deteriorating security conditions.

More than 25 vehicles were taken by Houthi rebels after Americans departed the city’s airport, airport officials told the Associated Press. The rebels also took weapons left in the vehicles, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

The U.S. Embassy’s Marine detachment, which escorted embassy personnel to the airport, are believed to have turned over their personal weapons, which included sidearms and assault rifles, to Yemeni officials before boarding commercial flights, said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

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They destroyed heavier weapons, such as machine guns, before departing the shuttered U.S. Embassy in an “orderly” evacuation, Warren said. He said “several” vehicles were left behind.

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A small number of military personnel not assigned to the embassy remain behind, he said. Staffers at the U.S. Embassy also destroyed files and documents, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, the State Department said it currently had no plans for a government-sponsored evacuation of American citizens but urged extreme caution amid an ongoing risk of kidnapping.

In Sanaa, witnesses told the Associated Press that the Houthis violently attacked several demonstrations Wednesday against their takeover of the country. Later in the day, thousands of Houthi supporters marched through the capital shouting “Death to America, Death to Israel,” which is part of the group’s slogan.

In addition to the United States, Britain and France announced the closure of their embassies in Yemen after the country was taken over by the Shiite militants late last week. The embassy closures were a signal that world powers see little chance the rebels’ advances will roll back soon.

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