SANAA, Yemen — The World Bank suspended its operations in Yemen on Thursday, the latest in a stream of international organizations, Western and Arab embassies to shut down offices in the capital, Sanaa, as the Shiite rebels who seized much of the country’s north staged military-type exercises along the border with Saudi Arabia in an apparent show of strength.
The power grab by rebels known as the Houthis has dragged Yemen deeper into turmoil and threatened to split the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.
Neighbouring Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia — which suspended its economic lifeline to Yemen in response to the Houthi power grab — has accused the Shiite rebels of carrying out a coup against Yemen’s legitimate authorities.
In a statement announcing it was suspending its operations in Yemen, the World Bank cited security concerns and political developments. It said the decision followed a thorough review that concluded the situation in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, had “deteriorated to the degree that the Bank was unable to exercise effective management over its projects.”
The Sanaa office of the World Bank had already temporarily closed in mid-February. Western embassies also shut down and evacuated staff from Sanaa last month, after the Houthis stormed the presidential palace and placed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his Cabinet ministers under house arrest. Hadi later managed to flee to the southern port city of Aden where he has since set up a base.
Russia, China, Iran and Oman have kept their embassies operating in Sanaa but Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have moved theirs to Aden. Qatar recently also said it would open its embassy in Aden.
The Houthis, who last year descended from their northern stronghold, seized control of Sanaa in September, and last month declared that they have taken over the country.
Thursday’s rebel manoeuvrs took place in the city of Kitaf in the province of Saada, the Houthi heartland, along the Saudi border. The Houthis used artillery, rockets, and other weapons, according to several military officials. A Houthi media official told The Associated Press the exercise was not meant to “pose a threat to anyone.”
Also Thursday, Shiite rebels fired tear gas and started shooting in the air to disperse a demonstration against them in the central city of Bayda, where thousands had taken to the streets to denounce the rebel power grab. One person was killed and seven were wounded in the shooting, said a medical official.
The military officials, the Houthi media representative and the Bayda medical official all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.