Sep 18, 6:17 PM EDT

Yemen's Shiite rebels attack state TV building

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Yemen's Shiite rebels attack state TV building

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Sanaa, Yemen (AP) -- Yemen's state television said on Thursday that its headquarters in a northwestern suburb of the capital Sanaa has come under attack by Shiite rebels.

The attack, a serious escalation by the rebels known as the Hawthis, prompted President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to hold emergency talks with top Cabinet aides.

The officials also said heavy fighting raged Thursday between the rebels and Sunni militias in Shamlan, a suburb also northwest of Sanaa that is home to the Iman Islamic university, an institution long viewed as a primary breeding ground for militias.

The officials say the fighting in Shamlan has forced thousands to flee their homes, but they had no word on casualties.

The Hawthis have recently routed their Islamist rivals in a series of battles that expanded their control of northern Yemen.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest nations, is facing multiple challenges. In addition to the Hawthi rebels, an al-Qaida branch in the south poses a constant threat as it tries to impose control over cities and towns. There is also a growing separatist movement in the south, a region that once constituted an independent state before it merged with northern Yemen.

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