Yemen: What you need to know about how we got here

Updated 10:55 AM EDT, Thu April 2, 2015
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yemen on the brink _00004605.jpg
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TOPSHOT - A photo taken on March 18, 2018, shows a Yemeni child looking out at buildings that were damaged in an air strike in the southern Yemeni city of Taez. / AFP PHOTO / Ahmad AL-BASHA        (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP/Getty Images)
AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A photo taken on March 18, 2018, shows a Yemeni child looking out at buildings that were damaged in an air strike in the southern Yemeni city of Taez. / AFP PHOTO / Ahmad AL-BASHA (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP/Getty Images)
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#NEWS:  Girl in iconic NYT image depicting Yemen famine dies ~ Yemen Health Ministry
Amal Hussein, a 7-year-old girl whose iconic image was captured by the New York Times has died, the Yemeni Health Ministry has confirmed. The stark photo of her emaciated body is one of the searing images of the Yemen's civil war.  A week after the image was published, and amid the international furor over the brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the participants in Yemen's 3-year civil war to agree to a ceasefire "in the next 30 days".
~From journalist Hakim Almasmari in Sanaa.  Opening line by CNN's Dan Wright in London.
~Background from excellent digital write by Kevin Liptak, Elise Labott, and Zachary Cohen
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times/Redux
#NEWS: Girl in iconic NYT image depicting Yemen famine dies ~ Yemen Health Ministry Amal Hussein, a 7-year-old girl whose iconic image was captured by the New York Times has died, the Yemeni Health Ministry has confirmed. The stark photo of her emaciated body is one of the searing images of the Yemen's civil war. A week after the image was published, and amid the international furor over the brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the participants in Yemen's 3-year civil war to agree to a ceasefire "in the next 30 days". ~From journalist Hakim Almasmari in Sanaa. Opening line by CNN's Dan Wright in London. ~Background from excellent digital write by Kevin Liptak, Elise Labott, and Zachary Cohen
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TOPSHOT - A photo taken on March 18, 2018, shows a Yemeni child looking out at buildings that were damaged in an air strike in the southern Yemeni city of Taez. / AFP PHOTO / Ahmad AL-BASHA        (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP/Getty Images)
AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A photo taken on March 18, 2018, shows a Yemeni child looking out at buildings that were damaged in an air strike in the southern Yemeni city of Taez. / AFP PHOTO / Ahmad AL-BASHA (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP/Getty Images)
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People walk past damaged cars at the entrance of Al-Thawra hospital after an air strike in the Red Sea town of Hodeida on August 2, 2018. - At least 20 people were killed Thursday in an air strike at the entrance to a hospital and the bombardment of a fish market in Yemen's rebel-held port city Hodeida, medics and witnesses said. (Photo by ABDO HYDER / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ABDO HYDER/AFP/Getty Images)
ABDO HYDER/AFP/Getty Images
People walk past damaged cars at the entrance of Al-Thawra hospital after an air strike in the Red Sea town of Hodeida on August 2, 2018. - At least 20 people were killed Thursday in an air strike at the entrance to a hospital and the bombardment of a fish market in Yemen's rebel-held port city Hodeida, medics and witnesses said. (Photo by ABDO HYDER / AFP) (Photo credit should read ABDO HYDER/AFP/Getty Images)
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epa06803021 Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition gather near the outskirts of the western port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, 12 June 2018. According to reports, the Saudi-led military coalition and Yemeni government forces continue to send reinforcements toward the port city of Hodeidah, preparing to launch an assault on the Houthis-controlled main port of Yemen.  EPA-EFE/NAJEEB ALMAHBOOBI
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epa06803021 Yemeni forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition gather near the outskirts of the western port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, 12 June 2018. According to reports, the Saudi-led military coalition and Yemeni government forces continue to send reinforcements toward the port city of Hodeidah, preparing to launch an assault on the Houthis-controlled main port of Yemen. EPA-EFE/NAJEEB ALMAHBOOBI
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NS Slug: SAUDI ARABIA INTERCEPTS MISSILES SHOT FROM YEMEN  Synopsis: Saudi Arabia's air defense says it intercepts 7 missiles shot from Yemen.  Video Shows: - Close up shot of ballistic missile that landed on a Saudi highway - Various shots of people around the missile - Night video of missile being intercepted and exploding and raining debris  - More night video of missile interception    Keywords: SAUDI ARABIA BALLISTIC MISSILES INTERCEPTED YEMEN
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
NS Slug: SAUDI ARABIA INTERCEPTS MISSILES SHOT FROM YEMEN Synopsis: Saudi Arabia's air defense says it intercepts 7 missiles shot from Yemen. Video Shows: - Close up shot of ballistic missile that landed on a Saudi highway - Various shots of people around the missile - Night video of missile being intercepted and exploding and raining debris - More night video of missile interception Keywords: SAUDI ARABIA BALLISTIC MISSILES INTERCEPTED YEMEN
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Younis learned to use a machine gun as a child, but he learned that being a soldier had more to it than holding a gun. He enrolled in a month-long program at a Saudi rehab center for child soldiers. He says the memories of the frontline still haunt his nightmares.
Joe Sheffer/CNN
Younis learned to use a machine gun as a child, but he learned that being a soldier had more to it than holding a gun. He enrolled in a month-long program at a Saudi rehab center for child soldiers. He says the memories of the frontline still haunt his nightmares.
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(CNN) —  

Yemen is a fractious, impoverished, weakly governed Middle Eastern nation that has long served as a haven for Islamic terrorists. Now, it appears to be teetering on the brink of all-out conflict. The United Nation’s top adviser on Yemen has warned that the country is moving toward “the edge of civil war.”

The United States recently pulled out its last remaining special forces from the country, a boon for terrorists operating there. And now Saudi Arabia has waded into the complex conflict roiling Yemen.

The unrest has ramifications for the West. Yemen, which U.S. President Barack Obama once cited as a successful example of counterterrorism strategy, is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by U.S. officials to be the most dangerous branch of the terror group.

Here’s a look at the moments that have shaped the current crisis.

A longtime ruler is forced out …

Yemeni anti-regime protesters take part in a protest in Sanaa, demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh steps down as president.
AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni anti-regime protesters take part in a protest in Sanaa, demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh steps down as president.

November 23, 2011: After months of protests and violence sparked by the Arab Spring uprisings in other nations in the region, President Ali Abdullah Saleh agrees to relinquish power after more than three decades in office. Saleh, who had been wounded in an attack on his compound earlier in the year, signs a deal to hand over executive powers to Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.

… but a branch of al Qaeda remains strong

02:01 - Source: CNN
Purported al Qaeda meeting caught on tape

April 15, 2014: Despite repeated U.S. drone strikes in Yemen against leaders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a video emerges showing what appears to be a large gathering of the terrorist group out in the open. It shows AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi addressing more than 100 fighters somewhere in Yemen. U.S. officials have said they consider the group to be the most active threat to the homeland.

Shiite rebels move into the capital …

01:48 - Source: CNN
Protests in Yemen turn deadly

September 9, 2014: Deadly violence flares after weeks of protests in and around the capital, Sanaa, by tens of thousands of Houthis, Shiite Muslims who hold sway in northern Yemen. Protesters clash with security forces at a government building. The Houthis are calling for the government of the Sunni majority country to step down. After the clashes, the rebels intensify their campaign, demanding greater influence and taking control of ministries, state television headquarters and other buildings.

… and the violence spreads

 Yemeni security forces and Shiite Huthi militiamen stand next to pools of blood on the ground after a powerful suicide bombing rocked the Yemeni capital Sanaa on October 9, 2014.
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni security forces and Shiite Huthi militiamen stand next to pools of blood on the ground after a powerful suicide bombing rocked the Yemeni capital Sanaa on October 9, 2014.

October 9, 2014: The unrest takes on a disturbing sectarian edge as an al Qaeda suicide bombing against a Houthi rally in Sanaa kills dozens of people. A U.N.-brokered ceasefire between the Houthis and the government in September has failed to resolve the crisis. The Houthis are moving into areas of central Yemen and clashing with Sunni tribes who are allied with al Qaeda.

The presidential palace is seized …

02:35 - Source: CNN
Who is really in control in Yemen?

January 20 - January 22, 2015: After another ineffective attempt to find a political solution in November, rebels display their hold over Sanaa by storming the presidential palace and forcing the resignations of top officials. President Hadi is kept under house arrest. The move deepens the chaos engulfing the country and sows confusion over who is in charge, alarming the Yemeni government’s allies, notably the United States.

… and foreign governments pull out staff …

01:05 - Source: CNN
U.S. and UK pull embassy staff from Yemen

February 11, 2015: As the security situation deteriorates, key foreign countries start suspending their embassy operations and pulling their staff out of Yemen. The United States, the United Kingdom and France are the first to announce the move, but others soon follow suit. Political disarray continues as the Houthis announce they will chart Yemen’s political future. The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, slams the Houthi takeover in Sanaa.

The president flees south

01:01 - Source: CNN
President escapes house arrest

President Hadi escapes from house arrest in Sanaa and flees to the southern province of Aden. He later withdraws his resignation and says all political decisions taken since the Houthis swept into the capital are invalid. Hundreds of thousands of his supporters rally across seven provinces. Lawmakers say his resignation was never accepted by parliament in the first place. He receives the backing of leading Arab governments and the U.N. Security Council.

… and still the violence rages

02:18 - Source: CNN
Yemen on the brink

March 20, 2015: Suicide bombings at two Shiite mosques frequented by Houthis in Sanaa kill at least 137 people. Adding to the complex and confusing situation, ISIS claims responsibility for the attacks. ISIS involvement in Yemen would present not only a new challenge to the Houthis, but also a challenge to ISIS’ rival. Alongside the terrorist violence, forces loyal to the Houthis clash with supporters of Hadi in Aden.

A big question mark looms

March 21, 2015: The United States says it is pulling out its remaining forces in Yemen. It had kept special forces in the country to train Yemeni troops and to be ready to carry out counterterrorism operations. With the American troops gone, what will happen in the fight against AQAP, one of the world’s biggest exporters of terrorism? “We’ll have no intelligence footprint or capabilities to monitor what AQAP and ISIS and the Shia militants are doing in the region,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security. “Good intelligence stops plots in the homeland. Without that intelligence, we cannot effectively stop it.”

Saudi Arabia enters the fray

04:53 - Source: CNN
Saudi Arabia could send troops to Yemen

March 26, 2015: Yemen’s neighbor Saudi Arabia begins military operations against the Houthis with support from other Arab nations. Analysts describe the move as an effort to fend off the possibility of a Shiite-controlled Yemen amid concerns over the rising regional influence of Shiite-majority Iran. “We are determined to protect the legitimate government of Yemen,” said Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir, referring to Hadi’s administration. The Houthis warned that force will be met with force. “This is a clear aggression and we will respond by a counteraggression,” said Ali Al Imad, a Houthi official.

Saudi military asserts increasing control

March 31, 2015: Almost a week into its military operation, the Saudi-led coalition destroyed air defense systems of the Houthis and supporters of Yemen’s longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and rendered all but a fraction of air bases and air strips unusable, a Saudi source told CNN. Saudi Arabia’s navy gained control of all Yemeni ports, allowing only closely watched non-military medical goods to pass its blockade, according to the source.

Civilian casualties, displaced persons grow, too

End of March 2015: The United Nations reported at least 182 deaths and hundreds more wounded in the fighting. Some 75,000 people have been displaced in the past week, many health facilities shut down and food prices have skyrocketed. Airstrikes that hit the Al-Mazraq camp for displaced persons near Sanaa killed at least 29 people – women and children among them, according to aid group Doctors Without Borders. About 1,100 families live in the camp, said U.N.’s humanitarian affairs coordinator for Yemen, Johannes Van Der Klaauw.

Houthis putting up resistance

April 2, 2015: Houthi commanders said they seized the presidential palace in Aden. President Hadi was last based in the Maasheeq palace before he fled to Riyadh last month. According to a Yemeni security official, Houthis are now in control of most large districts in Aden and there are ongoing clashes.