After Yemen’s president suddenly resigned on Thursday following failed negotiations with Shiite rebels who held him captive in his home, a senior Yemeni official told NBC News that the country was in an "extremely dangerous moment."
U.S.-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi told Parliament he was stepping down after the rebels, known as Houthis, continued to add to their list of demands, the official said.
Hadi had been allied with the U.S. in the fight against "al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula," based in Yemen, which claimed responsibility for the Jan. 7 attack on a Paris-based satirical magazine.
"No one knows what's going on or what is coming," the official said. "It creates a vacuum and that is good for al Qaeda."
The Houthis, who said they wanted an equal share of power, will try to organize a government to oversee the country until elections are held, the official said. But such an approach wouldn’t likely work.
"There are many tribes, especially outside Sana'a (the capital) who will not accept Houthi rule. The country could fracture," the official said.
The Houthis are backed by former Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who wants to return to power. The rebels also have the popular support of Yemenis who believe the current government is ineffective, corrupt and too pro-American.
The Houthis are opposed to both al Qaeda as well as the U.S. drone program in Yemen. They first seized control of Sana’a in September.
Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Sana'a has further reduced its American personnel working in Yemen as a result of the changing security situation, a senior State Department official said in a statement. The embassy has been on ordered departure since last September but will continue to operate as normal, the official said.