Yemen’s Houthis advance near al Qaeda stronghold

(Reuters) – Yemen’s new Shi’ite Muslim powerbrokers sent fighters towards an al Qaeda stronghold on Wednesday, raising the possibility of a showdown between the politically ascendant Houthi movement and the hardline Sunnis of the transnational militant network.

Witnesses said dozens of cars carrying armed Houthi fighters were seen arriving in the city of Ibb, bordering al-Bayda province, a bastion of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

AQAP, which views Shi’ites as heretics and Houthis as pawns of Iran’s revolutionary Shi’ite theocracy, last week claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a Houthi gathering in the capital Sanaa that killed at least 47 people.

That attack was seen as a sign of AQAP’s anger at the Houthis’ takeover of Sanaa on Sept. 21, a lightening assault that enabled the group to impose its will on the weak and fractured administration of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi…

(Photo: Shi’ite Houthi rebels are seen in Sanaa in this October 9, 2014 file photo. Credit: Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)