WATCH: As Mike Armstrong reports, a coup in Yemen could open a new and dangerous chapter in the story of al-Qaeda.
SANAA, Yemen – Yemen’s powerful Shiite Houthi rebels shelled the residence of the country’s embattled president Tuesday and simultaneously swept into the presidential palace in the capital, Sanaa, as a top military commander warned that a full-fledged “coup” was underway.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was inside the residence as it came under “heavy shelling” for half an hour but he was unharmed and protected by guards, officials said. In New York, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting over the chaos in Sanaa.
The shelling was a dramatic development that put the U.S.-backed Hadi into a precarious position and represented the starkest challenge to his authority since the Houthis swept into Sanaa from their northern stronghold and seized the capital in September.
WATCH: Raw video shows the devastation of the aftermath of intense fighting in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
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Information Minister Nadia al-Sakkaf posted on her 桑拿会所 account that the shelling started at 3 p.m. local time “by armed forces positioned over rooftops facing” the president’s house.
READ MORE: Canadian consulate in Yemen still operating amid chaos in capital
At the same time, Houthi rebels also raided the president’s offices, sweeping into the presidential palace and looting the grounds’ arms depots, according to Col. Saleh al-Jamalani, the commander of the Presidential Protection Force that guards the palace.
“This is a coup. There is no other word to describe what is happening but a coup,” al-Jamalani told The Associated Press, adding that the rebels were likely aided by insiders.
In a starkly different narrative, the Houthis’ TV network al-Masseria claimed the rebels intercepted and foiled attempts by an unspecified group to loot weapons from the presidential palace.
The escalation shattered a tense ceasefire that had held overnight and throughout the morning, following Monday’s heavy clashes that engulfed the city, leaving ordinary Yemenis stunned and fearing for their country.
WATCH: The U.N. Secretary-General said he had grave concerns over the situation in Yemen Tuesday.
The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over the “deteriorating situation” in Yemen and urged all sides to cease hostilities.
The latest spasm of violence followed apparently unsuccessful negotiations earlier in the day between Hadi and a representative of the Houthis at his residence.
Also earlier Tuesday, Houthi fighters roamed the streets on foot and in pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, manned checkpoints across Sanaa and near the prime minister’s residence, and beefed up their presence around other key building, including the intelligence headquarters.
READ MORE: Shiite gunmen kidnap Yemen president’s chief of staff
The show of force came after they seized control of state media in Sanaa and clashed with Yemeni soldiers near the presidential palace on Monday. Heavy machine-gun fire and artillery shells struck around the presidential palace and sent civilians fleeing as columns of black smoke rose and sirens wailed throughout the city.
Monday’s violence left at least nine people dead and 67 were wounded, Yemen’s deputy health minister, Nasser Baoum, said, while both Houthis and Hadi’s forces blamed each other for the outbreak.
Houthis’ power grab has been long anticipated and analysts say they are only “finishing the job” they began in September.
“What is happening now is just one more step toward (the Houthis’) consolidation of power,” said Abdel-Bari Taher, a veteran Yemeni journalist and writer.
Tuesday’s negotiations at Hadi’s residence focused on the shake-up of an 85-member commission tasked with coming up with the outline of Yemen’s future federation, as stated in the draft constitution, Cabinet spokesman Rageh Badi said.
Reforming the commission has long been overdue and was part of a U.N.-brokered peace deal following the Houthis’ capture of Sanaa.
The Houthis accuse Hadi of violating that deal by calling in the current members of the commission to a meeting days ago, prompting the rebels to retaliate and abduct his top aide, Ahmed bin Mubarak, and setting the wheels in motion for the latest violence.
But one of Hadi’s advisers, Yassin Mekkawi, claimed a “deal” to resolve the violence had been struck during the talks at the president’s residence and that it would be announced later Tuesday. He declined to elaborate.
READ MORE: Is al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula trying to overshadow ISIS?
The weakening of Hadi, a top U.S. ally, also undermines efforts by America and its allies to battle al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, which claimed responsibility for the attack on a Paris satirical magazine earlier this month. Washington has long viewed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP as the Yemeni branch is known, as the global terror network’s most dangerous affiliate.
The Houthis’ blitz in Sanaa and expansionist aspirations in central Yemen, where Sunni tribesmen dominate, also threatens to transform the current conflict into a sharply sectarian one, pitting Sunnis against Shiites. Al-Qaeda in Yemen, which has waged deadly attacks targeting both the Houthis and Hadi’s forces, stands to benefit.
The Houthis are also seen by their critics as a proxy of Shiite Iran and are believed to be allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen for more than three decades before he was ousted in 2012 after Arab Spring protests. The rebels deny any Iran links.
Suspected al-Qaeda militants on Tuesday tried to assassinate a top army commander in the southern Hadramawt province, killing five of his guards in the attack, military officials said.
The militants set off explosives, hurling them at the commander’s convoy, then opened gunfire but the commander managed to escape unharmed, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
Imagine looking through your back window and seeing this barreling towards you.
That was the case for one driver on Interstate 95 in New Jersey this past Sunday morning – and he managed to record the entire hair-raising incident.
Rain “flash-freezing” on roads and sidewalks left an icy glaze under feet and tires across much of the northeastern U.S., causing crashes that claimed at least five lives.
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“This is the worst type of winter precipitation to combat, because it can freeze instantly and it doesn’t need to be the whole pavement for vehicles crossing it to have problems,” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Eugene Blaum said.
From Maryland to New Hampshire, more than 5,000 accidents were reported due to black ice.
READ MORE: Man walks away from crash after being pancaked between trucks
However, it could have been 5,001 if not for an incredible bit of timing, luck, or both.
The amateur video shows a driver pulled over on I-95 near New Brunswick, New Jersey, halted by another black ice-induced accident in front of him.
He turns his camera round to shoot out his back window – just in time to capture a tractor trailer lose control at high speed, and barrel straight towards him.
It’s a hair-raising moment to be sure, as the out-of-control semi slams into the highway divider at high speeds, jackknifes its double load, yet somehow avoids slamming into the back of the car by mere inches.
-With files from the Associated Press
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TORONTO – The founder and chief executive of GoodLife Fitness says his company will look at Target Canada store locations as part of its growth strategy.
In a statement issued by fitness club chain, David (Patch) Patchell-Evans thinks the stores would be “spacious and convenient locations.”
He noted GoodLife acquired 12 former Eaton’s stores in 1999, when the one-time giant of the Canadian retail industry was wound up.
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GoodLife, a private company based in London, Ont., says it’s aiming to have 400 fitness clubs by the end of 2015, up from about 350 this spring.
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Target Canada has been operating under court supervision since last week, when its U.S. parent decided to close all 133 locations in this country.
The locations are mostly former Zellers stores that were acquired from Hudson’s Bay Co.
Target will work with a court-appointed monitor as it winds up its Canadian business, which launched in March 2013. The Target Canada business will continue to operate for a time, but major decisions, such as the sale of its major assets, will require approval from the Ontario Superior Court.
“When considering a business to take over some of the Target locations, GoodLife is a perfect partner because of our long-term success and our experience with this type of location,” Patchell-Evans said in the statement.
WATCH ABOVE: 16×9’s full episode on PTSD and first responders “In Harm’s Way”
Following 16×9’s powerful story on the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) crisis among Canadian first responders, viewers got the chance to join three experts Monday for an online chat to ask questions and share their own experiences.
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Global News producer Brennan Leffler was joined by Vince Savoia from the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, RCMP Sgt. Jag Soin, and Dr. Jeff Morley, a psychologist and recently retired member of the RCMP, for a live chat on the struggles associated with PTSD that have led to more than 30 first responders taking their own lives since April 2014.
READ MORE: The PTSD crisis among Canada’s first responders
From firefighters in Quebec to emergency dispatchers in Alberta, viewers from across Canada shared their stories that often touched on the stigma associated with PTSD in the workplace.
“Been suffering PTSD for 4 years, very strongly relate to these stories,” said one reader. “Doctors gave me diagnoses around the problem (depressive disorder, alcohol addiction, non-specific psychosis). PTSD is just too much for so many to accept, and there are too many suffering with it, and it’s just too costly to deal with. So I’m on disability, but there is no help. Severe trauma is what it is and it does real damage to real human beings.”
Morley, who was featured on 16×9, is a psychologist who sees many first responders dealing with PTSD and said changing work place culture attitudes towards PTSD and mental health is one of the “hardest parts.”
“Resourcing levels and toxic workplaces only amplify impact of traumatic stressors on first responders,” said Morley.
WATCH: An extended interview with Sgt. Jag Soin
Wayne Easter, who is the director for both the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation and Many to One PTSD Support Foundation, said he has seen first-hand how serious PTSD is within the emergency services community.
“Having almost lost a very close friend to PTSD had it not been for taking the time to get them to talk, we all need to take a much bigger part in recognizing this disorder and assisting those with it be it initial diagnosis or assisting them with support afterwards,” said Easter.
In Edmonton, veteran paramedic Greg Turner was laid to rest Saturday after taking his own life while on the job the morning of Jan. 26.
READ MORE: ‘Depression made that choice’: Wife of Edmonton paramedic who took his own life
Currently Alberta is the only province where workplace insurance coverage is presumptive for PTSD, meaning the diagnosis alone is sufficient to make a claim.
“The key is to get PTSD recognized as an occupational disease,” said a viewer identified as Peter. “In Ontario it is an outdated system that does not recognize PTSD when it is cumulative versus an acute incident. Almost everyone I have heard that applies under the cumulative policy is denied and has to appeal as I am doing.”
“We know the work has risk and that it takes a toll,” Morley told Global News. “So when a first responder comes forward, overcomes their own stigma and fear to say ‘help’… I think we need to presume that it’s legit.”
Sgt. Jag Soin, who has served more than 20 years with the RCMP, shared his traumatic story with 16×9 about responding to a domestic disturbance incident in 2001 in northern Labrador that quickly escalated when he and his partner were doused with gasoline and set on fire.
READ MORE: 6 months, 23 first responder suicides – what are we doing to help?
“The last thought that came through my mind, I thought this is it. I am never going to see my son again,” said Soin.
His is still recovering from the incident 13 years later. The haunting memory of the incident has led to nightmares and self-medication involving alcohol, all while keeping silent.
Morely said Soin’s story is a common one, as responders will hesitate to speak with someone if they know their information will be shared with their employer.
“Responders won’t talk openly with a psychologist if they know [the] psychologist [is] required to send a report to their employer detailing their issues,” he said. “Worried this [will be] used against them.”
READ MORE: Winnipeg firefighter trapped in fatal 2007 blaze still battles PTSD
One viewer pointed out emergency dispatchers who often field hundreds of traumatic calls are left out of the PTSD conversation.
“I am an EMS dispatcher in Ontario. The dispatchers are all too often forgotten, but we too suffer PTSD. I have PTSD and if it weren’t for my faith and perseverance in getting help for myself, I wouldn’t be here today,” said a viewer identified as “EMD.”
Morely said while talking about the PTSD crisis is essential it’s also important to recognize how resilient first responders are.
“People can get PTSD from a single traumatic event,” he said. “Most first responders are exposed to dozens if not hundreds over the course of a career, and overall cope quite well. People can both have PTSD and be resilient. Yes, PTSD is a significant issue, but we need to honour how resilient first responders are – even those struggling with PTSD.”
Below is the full live blog featuring Global’s Brennan Leffler, Vince Savoia, RCMP Sgt. Jag Soin and Dr. Jeff Morley.
CROSS LAKE, Man. – Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is apologizing to aboriginal communities for the damage hydro-electric development has done to their traditional land, way of life and cultural identity.
In a speech to the Cross Lake First Nation on Tuesday, Selinger said hydro development has changed water levels affecting everything from transportation and water quality to hunting and trapping.
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“The effects are more than just those on land and water and on plants and animals,” Selinger told about 200 gathered for what the community called a day of reconciliation. “We recognize that hydro development can affect the cultural identities of aboriginal peoples because of the close relationship of aboriginal peoples to the land and resources.
“Looking back on what has happened and on the effects on aboriginal communities in Manitoba, I wish now on behalf of the government of Manitoba to express my sincere apology to aboriginal people affected by hydro development.”
Agreements have been reached with many First Nations to address the effects, Selinger said. The province and Manitoba Hydro are committed to continuing to work respectfully with aboriginal people, he added.
Selinger agreed to visit Cross Lake following a six-week occupation of the Jenpeg generating station last fall. Protesters had said they wouldn’t leave the grounds of the dam until they received a personal apology from the premier.
The occupation ended in November with an agreement to negotiate the First Nation’s concerns over revenue-sharing, environmental cleanup and help with residential electricity bills that hover around $600 a month in the winter.
Chief Catherine Merrick told the gathering that hydro development in the area has forced people to move and disturbed graves along the lakeshore. People have also “died as a result of dangerous ice and floating debris caused by Jenpeg,” she said.
“The hydro project has also contributed to mass unemployment and mass poverty for our people. It has piled on top of the other difficulties we have faced,” she said.
“It is not possible to capture in words the damage done. Much of the harm is irreparable. It has forever changed our ways of life and our health.
Merrick said nothing can truly replace what has been lost.
“That is a bitter reality we must live with. All we can do is stand here today to let out the grief and to heal our nation. Mr. Premier, you have contributed to that healing today.”
Hundreds of protesters from the First Nation north of Lake Winnipeg marched to the hydro dam on Oct. 16. The generating station continued to operate during the occupation, but protesters wouldn’t let anyone in or out.
The band signed an agreement in 1977 after the Jenpeg dam was built, but Merrick said their traditional lands are regularly transformed into a floodway and none of the promised economic development and employment programs materialized.
During the occupation, Selinger was sympathetic and said protesters have some long-standing concerns that need to be addressed. But his apology is only the beginning of reconciliation, Merrick said.
“The apology does not fix the past. It does not even fix the present,” she said. “Our lands, waters and resources are still a mess. Our people still lack a fair share of the opportunity generated by the river. Our people still have to face debilitating hydro bills.”
Jenpeg is about 525 kilometres north of Winnipeg and is key in Manitoba Hydro’s northern electricity generation. The dam helps regulate the level of Lake Winnipeg, which has become swollen in recent years due to flooding. It also acts as a reservoir for other northern generating stations.
— By Chinta Puxley in Winnipeg