SANAA // Production in Yemen’s most strategic oil province has been halted in protest at Houthi militants kidnapping Ahmed bin Mubarak, president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi’s chief of staff, top officials in Shabwa said.
Shabwa’s governor, Ahmed Ali Bahaj, ordered all oil companies in the province to halt production before sunset. Shabwa has three oilfields and produces about 50,000 barrels per day.
“Oil companies operating in Shabwa province have halted all oil production and will not resume until bin Mubarak is released,” governor Bahaj said.
Mr Mubarak, is originally from Shabwa. The governor also ordered the closure of all government institutions in the province.
The move comes as Mr Hadi also pressures the Houthis to release Mr Mubarak. An aide to Mr Hadi told The National that they have no information on the whereabouts of Mr Mubarak.
“Houthi leaders informed the president that he has been transferred from Sanaa and is safe. They did not refer to when he will be released,” the adviser said.
The Houthis said they are holding Mr Mubarak because he is a key player in efforts to pass a new constitution dividing Yemen into a six-region federation. The Houthis oppose such a move because and support the country becoming two federal regions.
The Houthi’s political grouping, Ansarullah, warned Mr Hadi on Saturday that seizing his chief of staff would only be the start of an escalation against the government if their demands are not taken seriously.
The Houthis, which are rooted in the Shiite Zaidi sect, took control of Sanaa and several other areas of Yemen last year.
After signing a ceasefire agreement with the government on September 21, 2014, the Houthis formed “resistance committees” and stationed themselves in ministries, government institutions and the central bank, cementing their hold on the capital.
Dozens of Houthi checkpoints are also spread throughout Sanaa and surrounding areas.
“President Hadi refused to involve us in the decision making and this is unacceptable,” said Mohammed Abdulsalam, the Houthi spokesperson.
* with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse