Armed Houthi rebels in the Yemeni capital Sanaa seized US embassy vehicles after the ambassador and diplomats left the country on Wednesday, local members of embassy staff told Reuters.
The employees said that more than 20 vehicles were taken by the fighters after the Americans departed from Sanaa’s airport. Yemen-based analyst Haykal Bafana tweeted that US personnel surrendered 30 vehicles to Houthi militants.
CNN is reporting that Houthi militants took “all US Embassy vehicles” parked at Sanaa’s airport as US personnel left the country and confiscated weapons from departing US Marines.
CNN added that Embassy staff “destroyed weapons that were inside the embassy’s storage warehouses” along with “tens of thousands of documents.”
This is hardly the first time that US equipment in the country may have fallen into the wrong hands. Earlier this month, an unnamed US defence official told The Guardian that the US had only a limited ability to perform end-use checks on the $US400 million worth of equipment and other military aid Washington has sent to Yemen since 2006.
The US’s failure to keep track of nearly a half-billion dollars worth of military aid is apparently reflected in Yemen’s notoriously open weapons market, as Bafana also tweeted:
The United States, Britain and France have closed their embassies and evacuated staff as the security situation in Yemen has unravelled following the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels’ formal takeover of power last week.
The US’s decision to shutter the embassy comes just days after the Houthis, who had marched into Sanaa in late September, dissolved parliament. After the resignations of Yemen’s president, vice president, and cabinet in January, the Houthis’ decision to dismiss the parliament effectively completed the dismantling of Yemen’s internationally recognised government.
The closure of the Sanaa embassy presents a series of challenges for the US, aside from the confiscation of vehicles and possibly weapons at the hands of a Iranian-backed militant movement.
Yemen is home to the Al Qaeda branch considered most capable of attacking external targets and that took credit for the January attack on the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. And the Houthis are a Shi’ite militia movement allied with Iran. The absence of the US from Yemen during a time when a Tehran-backed group is consolidating power will hardly reassure American allies in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia.
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