The Canadian Consulate in Yemen‘s capital is operating as usual amid political unrest in capital city Sanaa, the federal government confirmed on Tuesday, although Canadians are “urged to leave the country immediately.”
There have been no changes in staffing levels, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) said in an email to Global News.
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“We take the safety of our personnel and our mission overseas very seriously,” DFATD spokesperson Francois Lasalle said in the email, noting there are no Canadian staff working at the consulate.
DFATD would not comment on specific security precautions at the consulate — located just a few kilometres from the presidential palace, which Houthi rebels reportedly took over on Tuesday.
Reuters reported Houthi rebels engaged in a brief clash with guards at the palace, where the main office of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is located, before control of the building was relinquished.
Lasalle said 149 Canadians have registered themselves as being in Yemen, but he indicated that number “is only an estimate” as registration is voluntary. “Registrants may include family members or co-travellers who are not Canadian,” he added.
Consular services for Canadians travelling or living in Yemen are available at the consulate in Sanaa and through the Canadian Embassy to Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh.
On its website, Foreign Affairs warned Canadians against all travel to Yemen and that assistance to Canadians could be limited.
“You are strongly urged to leave the country immediately if it is safe to do so. As the situation deteriorates further, roads may be blocked and airports may close on short notice. Check the status of your flight prior to travelling to the airport,” read a notice on the Canadian government website.
U.S. officials on Monday said staff at the American embassy in Sanaa could be evacuated if the security situation worsened, but there were no immediate plans to do so.
Meantime, gunmen fired their weapons as a U.S. diplomatic vehicle attempted to pass through a checkpoint near the embassy on Monday night, according to CNN.
“The U.S. Embassy said Tuesday the shooters fired first into the air and then turned the guns on its vehicle. The vehicle carried U.S. diplomatic personnel and was at a checkpoint near the embassy. No injuries were reported,” CNN reported.
Houthi rebels, members of the Shiite Muslim minority in Yemen, clashed with military forces near the presidential palace Sunday night, before agreeing to a ceasefire with government armed forces on Monday.
The truce did not do much to quell the chaos. Nine people were killed and at least 90 others injured as violent clashes continued on Monday, while Houthi rebels seized state-run media offices and surrounded the Prime Ministers’s residence.
The country’s Information Minister, Nadia Sakkaf, said Monday the rebel moves were “a step toward a coup and it is targeting the state’s legitimacy.”
The Houthis are seen by their critics as a proxy of Shiite Iran — charges they deny — and are believed to be allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, ousted in a 2012 deal after Arab Spring protests. They have vowed to eradicate al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror affiliate that claimed responsibility for the attack on the Paris office of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, but are also hostile to the U.S.
With files from The Associated Press