Yemen's president fled his palace in Aden to an undisclosed location Wednesday, five Yemeni officials told The Associated Press, as the advance of Shiite Houthi rebels plunged the Gulf nation further into crisis.
Witnesses also told the AP they saw a convoy of presidential vehicles leaving President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s hilltop palace in Aden. However, Hadi's chief of national security denied to Reuters that the president had fled his home.
"He's here, he's here, he's here. I am now with him in the palace. He is in Aden," Maj. General Ali al-Ahmadi told the news agency.
The developments came just hours after Houthi rebels seized an air base formerly used by the U.S. and Europe in the fight against al Qaeda, both the AP and Reuters reported.
That air base is only 35 miles away from Aden — and the developments plunged the city into a state of "chaos," one Yemeni official loyal to Hadi told NBC News.
"A lot of people are scared," the official told NBC News on condition of anonymity. "People are running through the streets and cars are driving around very fast."
Amid the escalating crisis, another Yemeni government official told NBC News that the country's defense minister had been detained. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was not able to provide further details on what happened to Maj. Gen. Mahmoud al-Subaihi.
Over the weekend the U.S. military evacuated its advisors and intelligence officials from Yemen as the situation became increasingly chaotic. A senior U.S. military official told NBC News at the time that Hadi was considering leaving Yemen with the Americans.
- Clashes Erupt in Yemen Following Anti-Houthi Protest
- Evacuation Could Cripple U.S. Anti-Terror Efforts in Yemen
- Yemen on 'Edge of Civil War' After Rebels Take Key City
— Alexander Smith and Richard Engel
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.