Yemeni security and port officials said President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has left the country by sea, on a boat from the port of Aden, as Shia Houthi rebels advanced on the southern city.
The officials told AP that Hadi left with his aides by two boats, under heavy security. They would not disclose Hadi’s destination. Yemen’s embattled president is scheduled to attend an Arab Summit in Egypt on the weekend.
Hadi’s escape from Yemen comes as the Houthi rebels are closing in on Aden and the city’s fall appears imminent.
Backed by allied army units, the Houthis seized an air base and appeared poised to capture Aden from defenders loyal to Hadi, local residents said.
After taking al-Anad air base, the Houthis, supported by heavy armour, advanced to within 20km of Aden, where Hadi had been holed up since fleeing the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa last month.
Houthi fighters have advanced to Dar Saad, a village a half-hour’s drive from central Aden, residents there said. Earlier, unidentified warplanes fired missiles at the Aden neighbourhood where Hadi’s compound is located. Anti-aircraft batteries opened fire on the planes.
Yemen’s slide towards civil war has made the country a crucial front in mostly Sunni Saudi Arabia’s rivalry with Shia Iran, which Riyadh accuses of stirring up sectarian strife through its support for the Houthis.
Sunni Arab monarchies around Yemen have condemned the Shia Houthi takeover as a coup and have mooted a military intervention in favour of Hadi in recent days.