Houthi fighters forced Yemen’s president Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and government to resign last week.
The fighters have occupied much of the capital Sana’a since September last year.
The Houthis have been buffeted by complex regional politics. In Yemen attempts at radical change repeatedly get pushed into sectarian strife.
The population is Muslim—roughly two thirds Sunni and one third Shia. The Houthis follow the Zaydi Shia sect.
The militia comes from the northern mountains that border Saudi Arabia.
Their name comes from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, their leader who was killed in 2004 by president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime.
The Houthis fought Saleh during the Arab Spring in 2011. But their representatives were left out of the government after the president was forced to step down.
Saleh, in exile in Saudi Arabia, supports the current rebellion hoping it might help him return to power.