Two gunmen of the Shiite Houthi movement inspect the scene of a car-bomb blast that targeted two days ago the residence of the newly-appointed Iranian ambassador to Yemen, in Sana’a, Yemen. Image Credit: EPA

Sana’a: Yemen’s powerful Shiite Houthis on Friday seized the military academy in the capital Sana’a, witnesses said, marking the rebel movement’s latest move to consolidate its foothold in the city.

“Houthi gunmen entered the academy and deployed their patrols inside without facing any resistance from the guards,” a cadet told DPA on condition of anonymity. “The Houthis are now in control of the academy’s gates.”

There was no comment from either the Al Houthis or the government.

In September, Al Houthis overran several government institutions in Sana’a. The rebels have since swept into mostly Sunni areas in central and western Yemen.

Several days ago, Defence Minister Mahmoud Al Subaihi was quoted as saying Houthi insurgents might be allowed to join the Yemeni army, a step perceived as an attempt to contain the rebels.

According to independent political analyst Mohammad Al Husini, the Houthis’ alleged takeover of the military academy indicates a rift between the movement and the military.

“Had there been an agreement between the defence minister and the Houthis on the issue, they would not have stormed military installations,” Al Husini told DPA.

The Houthis’ territorial expansion is a major challenge to Yemen’s Sunni tribes and Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the terrorist organisation’s most active branches.

AQAP has increasingly focused its attacks on the Houthis since the fall of Sana’a.

It sees the rebel group, who seek to revive the Zaidi Shiite traditions of Yemen’s historically dominant northern highlands, as heretics.

Yemen also faces a secessionist movement in the south.