10,000 troops besiege al-Houthy [Archives:2004/754/Front Page]

July 12 2004

By Mohamed bin Sallam,
Yemen Times Staff,

Yemeni forces killed seven supporters of an anti-U.S. rebel religious leader on Saturday, raising the death toll in nearly three weeks of clashes to at least 179, the Web site of Yemen's ruling party reported.
“Government forces have carried out a fierce assault since Saturday morning against remaining followers of Hussein al-Houthy leading to the death of seven of his supporters and the wounding of three others,” the Web site of the General People's Congress party quoted a military official as saying.
“This raises the number of those killed and injured among Houthy's supporters to around 85 in the last 48 hours,” the official said but did not give a breakdown.
Ten thousands military troops supported by advanced weaponry and artillery including fighting jets, tanks, and various heavy armed vehicles, have surrounded the hideout of Shekh Hussein Badreddin al-Houthy, who is currently being protected by his loyalists near the Haidan and Muran chain of mountains close to the Yemeni-Saudi border.
The latest news from the region of confrontations was sketchy and did not provide specific details about the operations and the conditions of the besieged area. al-Houthy has been surrounded for more than three weeks and his hideout has been shelled continuously killing scores of his members, yet not enough for his surrender.

Al-Houthy supporters deny
Sources close to al-Houthy denied news items published in the governmental press claiming that he is a radical extremist who has caused harm to his people and the area. “Such information is wrong and unjust and attempt at trying to damage the reputation of al-Houthy, who has noble national and Islamic objectives that he believes in. Such actions will not make al-Houthy run away and leave his people behind no matter what the consequences.” said the source, which requested to stay anonymous.
The source told Yemen Times that al-Houthy and many of his followers are still in the Muran area, and claims that the governmental forces, despite their might and number, will not affect their morals and determinations.
“al-Houthy has been supported by more tribesmen who decided to stand by him in solidarity. Now his defenders have increased in two folds.. al-Houthy's only case is against the USA and Israel as he called for their destruction many times He had been warned that if he doesn't stop his anti-US and anti Israel slogans, he would be punished.. We hope that the Yemeni public would be aware of the real reasons why al-Houthy is being attacked and not listen to the governmental media” the source said.

Government shows progress
Meanwhile, the government has been keen to signal successes in their attacks against al-Houthy. It had revealed the killing of dozens of al-Houthy's followers and announced financial awards up to YR 10 million to anyone who leads to his place. The government had also launched arrest campaigns in Sanaa, Amran, Hajja and Saadah governorates against those who are believed to have close ties to al-Houthy. Tribal sources in the area said that in Al-Mahabisha district in Hajja province, security forces took some elderly people hostages as they were unable to find the young suspects thought to have relations with al-Houthy.

Opposition expresses concern
The opposition on the other hand, expressed concern, disappointment, and outrage at the so-called “the use of excessive force” in the case of al-Houthy. They called for a peaceful solution to the conflict and accused the government of using al-Houthy's case as a political maneuver to threaten and accuse of disloyalty to those who oppose it and hence, “neglect the constitution and governmental laws”, which would result in consequences that would affect the overall stability of the country.