12 killed, another 2 injured as Sa’ada clashes renew [Archives:2008/1144/Front Page]

April 7 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, April 6 ) Tension and fierce clashes between government troops backed by some tribesmen broke out against Houthi supporters in different districts of the Sa'ada governorate, according to reliable sources in the governorate. Other confrontations between Houthis and pro-government Bakhtan tribesmen in Al-Salem district killed at least 12 people and left two injured on both sides.

The same sources said that government troops evacuated an area which, according to the Doha agreement, was to be under Houthi control. According to them, troops backed by fighter jets and tanks launched offensives against Houthi supporters and their leadership on Monday. Citizens reported seeing the fighter jets striking Houthi strategic positions in Al Salem area.

Army forces, positioned on a hill overlooking the main road fired at a car below, injuring citizen Ezzi Al-Mishet, who was left bleeding until he died because soldiers did not allow other passengers to take him to the hospital, local sources noted.

Umma.net, the mouthpiece of Al-Haq Party, quoted Houthi loyalists as saying the authority still attacks innocent citizens on a daily basis in different parts of the governorate.

Speaking to media outlets by phone, Houthi representative Sheikh Saleh Habra warned the military and security leaders against breaching the Doha ceasefire agreement. “The authority continues to kill citizens and destroy their property. Following the arrival of the Qatari mediation team, the government troops set up more ambushes and killed more citizens, thus giving a message to us and the Qatari mediators that the agreement is merely 'ink on paper' through which the governments only wants to get more support from Qatar,” Habra commented.

“We condemn such irresponsible attacks and claim that the authority should respect the agreement and abide by its terms,” said Habra. “The government must bring perpetrators, who committed massacres against detainees in the Fakhra Jail, to the competent courts. We also demand that these courts try the irresponsible soldiers who killed innocent citizens Qasim Al-Yousifi, Hassan Jaber Al-Gubeiran and Aziz Al-Mahram. The government should also bring to court the military soldiers who attacked Dhaiban Mosque while citizens were performing Friday prayers, thereby injuring four children near the mosque.”

According to the representative, Houthi followers tolerated repeated aggressive attacks by the army in order not to breach the agreement because they care about peace and stability in the governorate. “We are closely observing how the authority instigates some sheikhs and tribal leaders of Khawlan Bin Amer tribe to kill innocent citizens and damage their property,” added Habra. “We informed the presidential mediation committee and Qatari mediation team about such violations committed by the army.”

With regard to efforts expended by the mediation committee, Habra told the Yemen Times that Saleh Qara'a, the mediation committee head, is too biased on the side of government authorities.

“We are happy about the involvement of Qatari mediators in the reconciliation efforts expended by the committee,” said Habra. “The Qatari mediators are reliable, honest and trustworthy and we expect them to play a vital role in convincing both conflicting sides to abide by the ceasefire agreement and cease bloodshed.”

The Houthi representative claimed that the authorities should abide by the Doha-brokered peace deal, signed by the government and Houthis on February 1, which stipulates that the authorities must stop directing false charges to Houthi followers by accusing them of creating obstacles to the ceasefire agreement. He said that the government has abided by only 10 percent of the agreement terms, ignoring or even violating the others.

“We request Yemeni authorities to remain committed to the agreement terms, as well as stop creating problems and obstacles with the attention of foiling reconciliation efforts,” Habra went on to say.

Regarding terms of the agreement signed by both sides in Doha, Habra said, “We are ready to abandon our mountaintop positions and hand them over to the authority in conformity with Term 7 of the agreement.”

“We have already evacuated more than 30 strategic positions, but the government has not abided by any one of the agreement terms. It did not release those detained over alleged connections with the Sa'ada fighting,” said Habra. “It did not pull out its troops from citizens' homes and farmlands, which were badly damaged during the four years of fighting. Army forces are still deployed in most Sa'ada districts.”

The Houthi representative added that because of the government's arbitrary conduct and practices, Houthi followers cannot abandon their strategic positions, notably as their houses and farms are still occupied by government troops.

Habra pointed out that the clearest evidence of the government's lack of commitment regarding the terms of the agreement is its refusal to free the 500 detainees from the various governorates, who are jailed over alleged connection with the Sa'ada events, their being Hashimis or affiliated with the Zaidi sect. “Under the agreement, the authority must release all these detainees within one month after signing the agreement, but this requires that government officials be serious about ending the fighting and ceasing bloodshed,” he reiterated.

Asked about the causes of fundamental differences between them and the Yemeni government, Habra replied, “Prior to the war, our demands were limited to allowing us to practice our religious rituals freely like other Yemeni citizens. But now, we also demand that the government release the detainees and compensate citizens whose property was damaged in the war.”

A recent international report recorded many abuses the authority committed against civil society organizations in the nation over alleged connections with the Sa'ada fighting. Released by World Movement for Democracy and entitled “Defending Civil Community,” the report revealed that the Yemeni government has disbanded tens of private organizations and societies, including the Sana'a-based Badr Cultural Center, for political reasons. The report added that the government took such a procedure based on its belief that these organizations are loyal to Abdulmalik Al-Houthi.