Middle East

Yemen army base seized by al-Qaeda linked fighters

Yemeni armed member of the Shia Houthi movement in an army uniform guards a checkpoint on a street leading to the presidential palace in the capital Sanaa Image copyright AFP
Image caption Shia Houthi rebels have taken control of the capital Sanaa and are furthering their control elsewhere

Al-Qaeda linked fighters have captured an army base in southern Yemen, militants and officials say, as the UN warns the country is "collapsing".

The Ansar al-Sharia group said they set off a bomb at the base in the central town Bayhan before capturing soldiers.

Last week, Shia Houthis ousted the government in the capital Sanaa.

They have been expanding south from their stronghold in the north, putting them in conflict with al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP) and other Sunni groups.

"Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. We cannot stand by and watch," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told the Security Council.

The UN's envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, warned that Yemen was at a crossroads between "civil war and disintegration".

He also said the instability there could help the re-emergence of AQAP, one of the most active al-Qaeda branches.

The army base seized on Thursday is in Shabwa province, an al-Qaeda stronghold. It is reportedly home to more than 1,000 troops.

The militants captured heavy weaponry when they took the base, one official told the AFP news agency.

Tribal mediators were trying to convince the group to withdraw, the official added.

The Houthis moves last week - dissolving parliament and announcing a new interim government - have been called a "coup" by critics.

The US, UK and France have said they are closing their embassies in Yemen due to the deteriorating security situation there.

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