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Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim takeover of country

In a televised announcement Friday from Yemen’s capital Sanaa, the powerful Houthi Shiite rebel group claimed to have dissolved parliament and taken over the country.

Talks between political parties failed to meet the Houthis’ imposed Wednesday deadline.

The rebels said in a statement read on TV that their security and intelligence arm, called the “Revolutionary Committee”, would oversee the formation of a new parliament with 551 members. The unidentified announcer also said a “presidential council” of five members would lead at the executive level.

The rebels took control of Sanaa in September, setting up checkpoints with armed guards around the city. Last month, they overran the presidential palace, forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to resign.

The Houthi group, which formed in 1992, has gradually increased its influence from its base in northern Yemen by taking over other cities and towns. As part of the minority Shiite Muslim community, they have claimed to be marginalized and persecuted.

Yemen, a country about the size of Texas located south of Saudi Arabia, has a population of 26 million with about half living below the poverty line. Its population is 99.1 percent Muslim, of which an estimated 65 percent are Sunni and 35 percent are Shia.

Some observers are concerned the political turmoil in Yemen could trigger sectarian violence and hamper U.S. efforts to fight al-Qaida.

On the Jan. 22 PBS NewsHour, co-anchor Gwen Ifill spoke to Gregory Johnsen, author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia”, about what Yemen’s instability could mean globally:

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