US pulls some embassy staffers from Yemen

The State Department on Thursday ordered some U.S. Embassy personnel to leave Yemen amid violence between Shiite rebels and the predominantly Sunni military.

"We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution and in response to recent political developments and the changing, unpredictable security situation in Yemen," the State Department said in a statement.

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The embassy is not suspending operations and will continue to work with reduced staff, the statement said, calling the order temporary. Consular services will also continue. 

"Maintaining the security of our staff is among the highest priorities of the Department," the statement said. "We are continuing to closely monitor developments in Yemen and will calibrate our response as the situation develops." 

The reduction in staff is the second one this year. The embassy reduced the number of staffers in August for almost five weeks after about 65 militants were killed in April by drone strikes, according to The Washington Post

Thursday’s staff reduction comes after Shiite rebels, who belong to the Houthi ethnic minority in Yemen, swept into the capital of Sanaa earlier this week, and took control of strategic parts of the country. 

The State Department also issued a travel warning for Americans looking to go to Yemen, calling the threat-level "extremely high." 

It cited demonstrations around the country that have the potential to turn violent and cautioned that diplomatic personnel would have a limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

"The State Department is watching that situation very carefully," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday on Fox News before the staffing announcement.

"Yemen is obviously a very dangerous place," he added. 

Updated at 4:46 p.m.