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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Second Houthi minister defects, deepening rifts in rebel group   

Mohsen Ali Al Nakib was the minister of technical education and vocational training

Armed supporters of Houthi rebels stand near a car carrying food supplies during a gathering to collect food aid and mobilise more fighters into Hodeidah battlefronts, in Sanaa. EPA
Armed supporters of Houthi rebels stand near a car carrying food supplies during a gathering to collect food aid and mobilise more fighters into Hodeidah battlefronts, in Sanaa. EPA

The minister of technical education and vocational training Mohsen Ali Al Nakib announced on Tuesday his defection from the Iran-backed Houthi militia, following in the footsteps of Abdul-Salam Ali Gaber, another former member of the rebel group.

A source close from the Houthis told The National the rebel group is keeping a close watch on a number of ministers, and deploying soldiers to keep guard on the home of the Houthi head of government Abdul Aziz bin Habtoor, the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of tourism.

"The defection of the two ministers split the ranks...and created a mistrust between top leaders and ministers," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.

Members of the General People's Congress (GPC) who remained in Sanaa following a Houthi takeover in 2015 and officials who don't belong to the rebel movement are also being watched by Houthi members, the source added.

Rebel politicians have called on their top leader Abdul Malik Al Houthi to sack ministers suspected of wanting to defect and replace them with loyalists.

Abdul-Salam Ali Gaber who defected on Sunday was the most senior member of the Houthi administration to defect since the civil war broke out in 2014, dealing a blow to the rebels' often portrayed image of cohesion as they battle an offensive by a Saudi-led coalition to retake the key Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

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