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Houthi Rebels Capture Presidential Palace in Aden

by VOA News April 01, 2015

Yemeni officials say Shi'ite Houthi rebels and their allies fought their way through the center of Aden Thursday and seized the presidential palace in the key southern port city.

The rebels have been driving deeper into Aden in recent days while battling forces loyal to internationally backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled Aden last week.

The capture of Aden, the last remaining stronghold of those backing Hadi, would mark a setback for the Saudi-led coalition, which has been carrying out airstrikes for more than a week across Yemen.

​​At a news conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, a Saudi defense official said he believes the situation in the city is 'relatively stable and calm.'

Earlier Thursday, al-Qaida militants stormed a prison in southern Yemen and freed 300 inmates.

Security officials said Khalid Batarfi, a prominent figure with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, was among those freed from the prison in al-Mukalla.

​​Separately, the official Saudi Press Agency reported a Saudi border guard was killed after coming under fire from Yemeni territory. The killing marks the first known Saudi casualty since the country launched an operation against the Shi'ite rebels a week ago.

Hadi fled Aden a week ago as the Houthis pushed south in an offensive that brought Saudi Arabia and other allies to launch a campaign of airstrikes to try to halt the advance.

Also Thursday, the International Organization for Migration said it expects to undertake initial evacuation operations from Yemen in the next few days. The organization plans to begin evacuating the first of at least 11,000 migrants for whom many requests of assistance have been received.

Human Rights Watch said on Thursday one of the coalition airstrikes that killed at least 29 people earlier this week 'raised grave concerns about violations of the laws of war.'

The group called on the forces involved in the attack to conduct an investigation, and for the United States, which is giving logistical and intelligence support, to make sure precautions are being taken to protect Yemeni civilians.

'The deaths of so many civilians in a camp with no apparent military target heightens concerns about laws-of-war violations,' said Joe Stork, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was 'deeply concerned' about the attack Monday on the Al-Mazrad camp in northern Yemen as well as other civilian casualties in Yemen.

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