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    Houthis Given 24-Hour Ultimatum to Release Abducted Yemeni Official

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    Houthi Rebels Shake Yemen (127)
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    Houthi militia abducted a Yemeni official on Saturday in Saana amid a power struggle between rival sects.

    MOSCOW, January 18 (Sputnik) — The leaders of the southern Yemeni provinces on Saturday issued the Houthis a 24-hour ultimatum to free the president’s chief of staff, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Al Arabiya News Channel reports.

    They called all politicians to halt their membership in all committees, and asked residents of the northern provinces to support them.

    The Houthis, who belong to the minority Zaidi Shiite community, have staged periodic revolts since 2004 to gain greater autonomy for the northern Yemeni province of Sadah.

    Meanwhile, southern leaders also urged residents in the cities of Shabwa, Hadramouth and Maareb to prepare to halt operations of all oil and gas facilities.

    The Houthis abducted Mubarak on Saturday in Saana amid a power struggle between rival sects. Mubarak, 46, is a former businessman who became a politician during the uprising that overthrew President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 22 years in power.

    The Houthis, who became the strongest group in the country after seizing large areas in Yemen last year, are at odds with Mubarak, who reportedly refused to be president after the group opposed him for his ties with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

    The Houthis seized him to prevent a UN-brokered peace deal "from being broken", according to a statement by the group’s popular committee.
    Mubarak is also secretary general of the national technical body tasked with overseeing the political transition in the country after Saleh’s toppling.

    He was reportedly also abducted to prevent him from attending a meeting on the constitution, according to Al Arabiya.

    The draft constitution, launched of Friday, presumes devolving authority to regions in a bid to resolve some serious regional, political and sectarian differences in Yemen. However, it has been strongly opposed by the Houthis who fear it would shatter their power.

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    Houthi Rebels Shake Yemen (127)

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