Emboldened by capture of town southeast of capital, suspected al-Qaeda-linked fighters vow to impose strict Islamic law.
A suspected al-Qaeda-linked group that took over Radda, a small town in Yemen about 170km southeast of Sanaa, say that they are closing in on the Yemeni capital.
Tareq al-Dahab, the Ansar al-Sharia chief, is related to Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen who was accused by the US of a leadership role in the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda and who was assassinated in a drone strike last year.
The fighters swept up from the southern and eastern provinces on Sunday – to within just a few hundred miles of Sanaa.
While the government in Sanaa has been preoccupied with steering Yemen towards elections scheduled for February, the fighters are taking advantage of the political instability.
Earlier, al-Dahab released a video online, repeating demands for jailed members of his group to be freed.
Tribesmen negotiating with the group on behalf of the government said the fighters, agreed to leave if their leader’s brother and several others were freed.
The group are also promising that the town, and the country, will soon be under strict Islamic law.
But not all the locals are happy to see the group.
The political opposition blames the government for losing control of the security situation, and despite earlier indications that the elections might be postponed, the government says it is sticking to the timetable.
Yemen’s foreign minister says a presidential election will be held as scheduled.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said his government was committed to hold presidential elections on February 21.