Shiite rebels, allies replace Yemeni governor

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni Shiite rebels and allied politicians sacked the governor of a strategic Red Sea province and replaced him with an ally on Sunday, amid an escalating power struggle with the country's embattled president, a local official said.

The rebels, allied with supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, seized control of the capital Sanaa in September before pushing into the Red Sea province of Hodeida. On Saturday the rebels seized control of a district north of the capital.

The months-long conflict between the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has plunged the impoverished country deeper into turmoil. The rebels, enlisting help from Saleh's loyalists still in government, are demanding a greater role in Yemen's affairs and say they are battling both corrupt officials and a powerful local al-Qaida affiliate.

The official said Saleh loyalists in the provincial council of Hodeida signed a petition sacking Sakhr al-Wagih, who had protested the Houthi takeover, and appointed Hassan Haij in his place. Before the Houthis launched their wide offensive, they appointed a loyal governor in their stronghold, the northern Saada province.

The conflict has brought an escalation in attacks targeting officials on different sides of the country's bitter divide. On Sunday, a local official loyal to Saleh in Marib province, an al-Qaida stronghold east of Sanaa, was killed alongside his two guards when an explosive device placed under his car went off. A security official said the bomb exploded just outside a local market.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

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