Armed men from Yemen's newly dominant Houthi group took over a special forces army base in the capital city of Sanaa early Wednesday, soldiers there said. The troops at the base had been trained and equipped by the United States as an elite counterterrorism unit during the rule of former President Ali Abullah Saleh, who was ousted by Arab Spring protests in 2011, military sources told Reuters.
The clashes, which lasted around six hours, started late Tuesday when Houthis shelled the camp with heavy weapons, soldiers from the camp said. At least 10 people were reportedly killed.
Houthi militiamen seized Sanaa in September, eventually leading President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Aden this week where he seeks to set up a rival center of power.
For more than a decade the U.S. has watched with alarm as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has grown in Yemen, as the political chaos has mounted.
The U.S. military trained and outfitted Yemeni soldiers under Saleh, and under Hadi the CIA has stepped up drone strikes aimed at killing suspected militants.
U.S. officials have expressed concern that the rule of the resolutely anti-American Shia Houthis will harm their counterterrorism efforts in a country that shares a long border with Saudi Arabia.
Yemen's Sunni Gulf neighbors have decried the Houthi takeover as a coup, and the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council Abdullatif al-Zayyani arrived in Aden to meet Hadi on Wednesday, political sources there said.
The power struggle between the Houthis in Sanaa and Hadi in Aden casts more doubt on U.N.-sponsored talks to resolve Yemen's crisis peacefully, and exacerbates sectarian and regional splits that may plunge the country into civil war.
The Houthis said Tuesday that Hadi had lost his legitimacy as head of state and was being sought as a fugitive from justice.