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Sep 21, 1:09 PM EDT

Yemen state media: prime minister resigns


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Yemen state media: prime minister resigns

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Yemeni state media announced the resignation of the country's prime minister Sunday but the president's office denied that it had received any such request, deepening a sense of uncertainty in the country following days of violence that have left more than 140 people dead and sent thousands fleeing their homes.

The conflicting information came as military and security officials said Shiite rebels, known as Hawthis, had sized numerous strategically important installations in the capital, Sanaa, including the Defense Ministry, the Central Bank, a key military base and the Iman University in the capital Sanaa.

The Hawthis have in recent months routed their Islamist foes in a series of battles in areas north of the capital, Sanaa, and in recent days consolidated and expanded their grip on areas just to the north of the capital.

Their foes have traditionally been Sunni Islamist militias allied with the government or the fundamentalist Islah party. The Hawthis have been pressing for a change of government and what they see as a fair share of power.

In many cases, officials said the rebels handed over installations they captured to the military police or to popular committees comprising Hawthis and local residents to protect them against looting.

However, they dealt harshly with personnel and installations associated with their foes in years of war, such as the university, which was seen as a bastion of Sunni hard-liners and a recruitment hub for militants.

On Sunday afternoon, the official SABA news agency announced the resignation of Mohammed Salem Bassindwa but gave no details on the move.

A subsequent report by the news agency quoted the president's office as saying it had not received any such request.

Bassindwa took office shortly after Saleh was forced to step down. He has been in office since February 2012 and has been sharply criticized for his inability to deal with the country's pressing problems.

The military base captured by the Hawthis is the headquarters of the army's 1st Armored Division, an elite outfit led by Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who has led several military campaigns against the Hawthis in the north.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters. There were no official casualty figures from Sunday's violence.

Hawthi rebels captured the state television building on Saturday.

Interior Minister Hussein al-Terb issued a statement Sunday calling on policemen in the capital to "cooperate" with the Hawthis in maintaining security, a move seen as an attempt to stop the city from descending into lawlessness.

The Defense Ministry and the General Staff earlier in the day called on military units in Sanaa and nearby areas to remain at their posts, be on high alert and safeguard their weapons and equipment.

The Hawthis waged a six-year insurgency that officially ended in 2010. The following year, an Arab Spring-inspired uprising shook the country, eventually forcing former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in 2012 as part of a U.S.-backed deal giving him immunity from prosecution.

Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest nations, is facing multiple challenges. In addition to the Hawthi rebels, an al-Qaida branch in the south poses a constant threat as it tries to impose control over cities and towns.

The U.S. considers Yemen's local branch of al-Qaida to be the world's most dangerous, and has helped support Yemeni government offensives against it with drone strikes.

On Saturday, the U.N. envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, had signaled that an agreement was reached to halt the violence, and that preparations were underway to sign the accord.

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Associated Press reporter Merrit Kennedy in Cairo contributed to this report.

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