Houthis block Sanaa main roads ahead of protests

SANAA – Militants loyal to the Shiite Houthi group blocked off on Wednesday several main roads in Yemeni capital Sanaa in anticipation of demonstrations by anti-Houthi protesters, eyewitnesses said.

The protests are set to mark four years since the passage of the Yemeni uprising which eventually toppled President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Eyewitnesses said that Houthi militants have blocked off central Sanaa's Taghyeer Square, the epicenter for the protests which led to Saleh's removal in in 2012.

The militants also closed Sanaa's largest main road as well as a number of streets surrounding Taghyeer.

Several youth-led movements, including one led by renowned activist Tawakkol Karman, had called for mass demonstrations in Sanaa on Wednesday to commemorate the uprising.

The same movements had rejected a de facto takeover by the Houthi group of the Yemeni government last week, after the Shiite group dissolved the parliament and announced plans for forming a "transitional council" following the resignation of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Houthi group, for its part, called on its supporters to stage rival rallies in the capital on the same day.

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

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.

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