ADEN - Houthi forces in Yemen
backed by allied army units seized a key air base on Wednesday and appeared poised to capture the southern port of Aden from defenders loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, local residents said.
The Houthis and their military allies later advanced to within 40km (25 miles) of the city, where Hadi has been holed up since fleeing the group's stronghold in the capital Sanaa last month.
Yemeni officials denied reports that Hadi had fled Aden.
Public sector workers in the city were instructed to return to their homes and some residents began arming themselves, local witnesses told Reuters.
Hadi's reversals have multiplied since heavy fighting first broke out in south Yemen on Thursday and the Houthis began making rapid advances southward.
The northern militia alongside army units loyal to Yemen's powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh have driven back an array of tribal fighters, army units and southern separatist militiamen loyal to embattled president Hadi.
The Iranian-backed Houthi Shi'ite militants took control of Sanaa in September and seized the central city of Taiz at the weekend as they move closer to Aden.
Houthi leaders have said their advance is a revolution against Hadi and his corrupt government, and Iran
has blessed their rise as part of an "Islamic awakening" in the region.
Yemen's slide toward civil war has made the country a crucial front in mostly Sunni Saudi Arabia's rivalry with Iran, which Riyadh accuses of sowing sectarian strife through its support for the Houthis.
Sunni Arab monarchies around Yemen have condemned the Houthi takeover as a coup and have mooted a military intervention in favor of Hadi in recent days.
A body of army loyalists close to Saleh on Wednesday warned against any foreign interference, saying in a statement on Sale's party website that Yemen would confront such a move "with all its strength." - Reuters