SANAA, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Yemen’s Houthi movement sacked top managers of the country’s second largest port and the main oil company on Wednesday, staff said, in the latest move by the Shi‘ite Muslim group to consolidate its hold on state institutions.
The Houthis, who became the de facto power in Yemen in September when they captured the capital Sanaa, portray their move as a revolution against corruption and embezzlement which they say was emptying state coffers.
Officials at Hodeida port said Houthi fighters on Wednesday blocked the director of the facility, Yemen’s main Red Sea harbour where most of the country’s food imports arrive, with a view to replacing him.
“The staff were so angry that they walked out in a demonstration and closed off the port,” a port official said by telephone.
Later on Wednesday, about 20 Houthi fighters broke into the state-run Safer oil company in Sanaa, kicked out the director and his deputy and locked their offices, company officials said.
Yemeni officials said the moves appear to be part of a systematic drive by the Houthis to tighten their grip on power, bypassing the government nominated by Prime Minister Khaled Bahah in November.
Western powers are worried about the volatile situation in Yemen, which shares a long border with oil giant Saudi Arabia and is fighting al Qaeda militants and separatists in the south.
Officials say the Houthis are getting support from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was sanctioned last month by the U.N. Security Council for threatening Yemen’s peace and stability, a charge he has denied.
“It is clear that the Houthis, together with Ali Abdullah Saleh, are completing their (September) 21 coup,” said Sultan al-Atwani, an adviser to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Saleh loyalists held up a parliamentary meeting which was meant to confirm Bahah’s government, demanding the reopening of offices belonging to their General People’s Congress which they said had been shut by authorities in southern Yemen.
Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi earlier lashed out at Hadi, saying he was sanctioning corruption, and demanded that he hand control of state bodies to the Houthis so that they could ensure that “funds are not wasted.”
Apart from their move at Hodeida port, the Houthis have sacked four provincial governors, the editor of the main state newspaper al-Thawra and the commander of the special forces.
Houthi fighters also broke into Yemen’s largest publishing house, removed the editor of the official al-Thawra newspaper and forced staff to alter the editorial line, employees said. (Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by William Maclean and ...... ....)