Hawthi Shiite rebels chant slogans at the compound of the army's First Armored Division, after they took it over, in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
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Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels, who signed a U.N.-brokered peace deal Sunday after seizing key institutions, only recently began extending their influence beyond their northern highland stronghold.The rebels belong to the Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam which makes up approximately a third of the Sunni-majority country's population.The north was a Zaidi imamate until a 1962 coup turned Yemen into a republic ruled by a government long considered illegitimate by the rebels.As an Arab Spring-inspired uprising against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh swept through Yemen in 2011, the Houthis reached out to the opposition in Sanaa and joined protest camps there.Earlier this year, the rebels drove the influential Al-Ahmar tribe out of its bastions in Amran.
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