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Yemen PM reportedly quits as Shiite rebels capture military base

Shiite rebels have fought for several days around Sanaa in sectarian violence that the government has struggled to quell. Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world. 

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A Hawthi Shiite rebel stands guard at a checkpoint on a street leading to the state television building in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.

Hani Mohammed/AP

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Yemen's prime minister resigned Sunday, the state news agency reported, following days of violence that left more than 140 dead and prompted thousands to flee their homes.

The official SABA news agency gave no details on the move by Mohammed Salem Bassindwa, and it was not immediately clear if his resignation had been accepted by the president.

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Bassindwa took office shortly after former president Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to step down in 2012. He has been in office since February 2012 and has since been the target of sharp criticism for his inability to deal with the country's pressing problems.

The resignation came as Shiite rebels, known as Hawthis, took control of a key military base and Iman University on Sunday afternoon in the capital Sanaa, according to military officials. The university was seen as a bastion of Sunni hard-liners that is seen as a recruitment hub for militants.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief reporters. There were no official casualty figures from Sunday's violence.

Hawthi rebels on Saturday captured the state television building.

The Hawthis have in recent months routed their Islamist foes in a series of battles in areas north of Sanaa, and have in recent days consolidated and expanded their grip on areas just to the north of the capital.

Their foes have traditionally been Islamist militias allied with the government or the fundamentalist Islah party. The Hawthis have been pressing for a change of government and what they see as a fair share of power.

The Defense Ministry and the General Staff issued a joint statement calling on military units in Sanaa and nearby areas to remain at their posts, be on high alert and safeguard their weapons and equipment.

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On Saturday, the U.N. envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, had signaled that an agreement was reached to halt the violence, and that preparations are underway to sign the accord.