The fears of civil war in Yemen escalated over the weekend with reports of suicide bombings and the seizure of the city of Taiz, according to The New York Times.
The violence began Friday, March 20 during a prayer service when an affiliate of the Islamic State group carried out a coordinated suicide mission on Zaydi Shiite mosques in the capital of Sana. According to The New York Times, more than 130 people were killed.
The bombings were coordinated by Sunni extremists and were specifically targeted against Shiite places of worship. Yemen has become progressively unstable since before the Houthi rebels seized power in the country, according to The New York Times. The U.S. has also been less effective and present with their counterterrorism efforts.
These suicide attempts are unique in the sense that “Yemen’s powerful affiliate of al-Qaida had been reluctant to carry out large-scale attacks against Muslim civilians, despite its hatred of the Houthis, whose leaders are members of the Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam and are considered heretics by the Sunni militants,” according to The New York Times.
On Sunday, March 22, the situation became more dire, according to CNN. Due to the deteriorating situation, the U.S. military pulled all remaining government personnel out of Yemen, according to the State Department.
Around 100 Special Operation forces from the Al-Anad airbase were evacuated, but according to CNN, the State Department is referring to their removal as a “temporary relocation.” Navy SEALs and members of the Army’s Delta Force were also among those evacuated from the Middle Eastern country.
This removal of forces follows the closure of the U.S. embassy in Sana last month once Houthi rebels gained control of the capital.
“We continue to actively monitor terrorist threats emanating from Yemen and have capabilities postured in the area to address them,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said late Saturday, according to CNN. “As we have in the past, we will take action to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens.
“There is no military solution to Yemen’s current crisis,” Rathke continued. “We urge the immediate cessation of all unilateral and offensive military actions.”
The Houthi’s advancement into the city of Taiz seems to solidify future military action against President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s army, according the The New York Times.
The advancement on the third largest city in Yemen came a day after Houthi leaders issued a call for a “general mobilization” of soldiers and civilian fighters, according to The New York Times. Many view this statement as a declaration of war against the Hadi-ruled government.
The leader of the Houthi rebels also went on to call President Hadi a “puppet” of the U.S., according to USA Today. Residents in the city of Taiz have begun to fight back, however, protesting Houthi loyalists in the streets of the city.
Dhia al-Hag Edris, a resident of Taiz who joined the protests and spoke with The New York Times, said the Houthi Rebels used tear gas to prevent the demonstration from reaching the Special Security Forces camp on Sunday.
“We oppose the Houthis because they are turning Taiz into a battleground, and a corridor to attack people in the south,” he said. “People in Taiz have agreed to keep the city away from conflicts.”
Editor’s Note: Information from The New York Times,USA Today and CNN was used in this report.