UK closes Yemen embassy, withdraws diplomatic staff

SANAA – The British embassy in Sanaa has suspended its activities and urged U.K. citizens to leave Yemen immediately, citing security reasons.

"The security situation in Yemen has continued to deteriorate over recent days. Regrettably we now judge that our embassy staff and premises are at increased risk," the embassy statement quoted Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood as saying.

"We have therefore decided to withdraw diplomatic staff and temporarily suspend the operations of the British Embassy in Sana’a. Our Ambassador and diplomatic staff have left Yemen this morning and will return to the U.K," he added.

The release said that British nationals who remain in Yemen should now contact the embassies of other European Union member states if they require urgent consular assistance.

"If you do choose to remain you should minimize movement around the country and within cities and towns and follow the other precautions in this travel advice," it added.

The embassy's closure comes days following the de facto takeover of Shiite Houthi group of the Yemeni government.

It also came hours after an announcement by the U.S. embassy in Sanaa to also suspend activities as of Wednesday, citing "terrorist activities and civil unrest."

The embassy urged U.S. citizens to leave Yemen immediately, fearing a violent escalation by demonstrations in the country.

Last week, the Shiite Houthi group issued a "constitutional declaration" dissolving parliament and establishing a 551-member "transitional council."

The declaration, however, was rejected by most of Yemen's political forces – along with some neighboring countries – which described it as a "coup" against "constitutional legitimacy."

Late last September, the Houthis seized control of Sanaa and has since sought to expand their influence to other provinces farther afield.

The fractious country has remained in the throes of political turmoil since autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in 2012 after a months-long popular uprising against his 33-year rule.

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