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Jan 28, 3:02 PM EST

Yemen rebels beat, detain demonstrators in capital

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AP Photo/Hani Mohammed
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SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Rebels who control the Yemeni capital beat back dozens of people marching in protest against them on Wednesday, firing automatic rifles in the air and striking protesters with batons and knives.

The violence highlighted the volatility in leaderless Yemen, after the president resigned last week under pressure by the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who had placed him under house arrest and demanded a greater share of power.

Witnesses say the rebels detained several protesters and journalists on Wednesday, and that around 10 people were lightly wounded in the scuffles. Yemeni newspaper Source Online said that one of its journalists had been taken by the Houthis but was later released.

The Houthis seized Sanaa in September and last week put the president, prime minister and top Cabinet members under house arrest, leading to their resignation.

Since then, demonstrations against the Houthis have been held across the country. The rebels detained around a dozen protesters and journalists on Monday, and opponents of the Houthis have called for their release as a sign of good faith.

On Wednesday, the leader of the Houthis called for a "peaceful transfer of power" after his forces released a presidential aide whose abduction had set in motion a violent escalation that led to the government's resignation.

Abdel-Malek al-Houthi called for a meeting to be held in Sanaa on Friday to work toward resolving political and security issues. He also pledged to take a stand against "anarchists."

The latest crisis in Yemen has plunged the impoverished country deeper into turmoil and pushed it closer to fracturing along sectarian and tribal lines. The violence and power vacuum has also raised concerns about Washington's ability to continue targeting al-Qaida's Yemeni branch, which it sees as the network's most dangerous franchise.

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