Shiite rebels attacked the headquarters of Yemen’s Sunni Al-Islah party in the southwestern city of Ibb, triggering violence in which three people died, security sources said Saturday.
“Two guards at Al-Islah’s office in Ibb were killed and others wounded in an attack launched late at night by the Huthis using automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades,” the source told AFP.
A civilian was killed in the ensuing clashes, said another security source, adding that the rebels overran and looted the office before setting off a bomb inside it Saturday morning.
Al-Islah, which represents Yemen’s Sunni majority tribes, has lost influence in the face of the Shiite rebellion that seized the city of Ibb last month.
The Huthis, also known as Ansarullah, overran the capital Sanaa on September 21 in a surprise offensive that later saw them take control of the port of Hudeida, and the provinces of Ibb and Dhamar.
They have been able to expand their territory largely unchallenged by government forces, and the only real resistance they have faced has come from Sunni tribes and Al-Qaeda.
Yemen has fallen deeper into turmoil since an uprising forced out autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012 after a year of unrest, with the Shiite rebels and Al-Qaeda battling each other.
Both sides have taken advantage of the lack of stability since Saleh’s ouster to extend their sphere of influence in the country.
On Friday, Shiite rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi told President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi that if he did not form a new government within 10 days a “national salvation council” would take its place.
A meeting in Sanaa of rebel leaders denounced Hadi’s call last Sunday for the Huthis to immediately withdraw their fighters from all the cities and provinces they have seized, including the capital.
In reaction, hundreds of intellectuals and human rights activists turned out in Sanaa demanding the Huthis pull out.
They called on Hadi to form a government of technocrats to prevent the risk of a coup by militias. Failing that, they proposed calling early general elections to choose a new parliament and president.
The rebels want greater political clout in impoverished Yemen, which is located next to oil kingpin Saudi Arabia and key shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden.