Al-Houthi besieged near Saudi Arabia border [Archives:2005/834/Front Page]

April 18 2005

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
The government troops in the governorate of Sa'ada, 240 km north of Sana'a, are besieging the rebel Zaidi cleric Badeddin al-Houthi. He is thought to be in an area close to the border with Saudi Arabia, an official source said. He said that al-Houthi, 80, along with tens of his supporters and loyalists are in al-Naqa'a area, 30 km from the border. “The government troops are controlling the outlets of the area, getting ready to storm their stronghold,” he told Yemen Times. Other sources said that a military aircraft shelled a house in al-Naqa'a belonging to one of the Sheikhs believed to have given shelter to al-Houthi. Badreddin, who is now considered to be the spiritual leader of the rebels who emerged from his son's extremist Faithful Youth movement, formed in 1997

They pointed out that government troops are hunting down rebels in Rizamat, Al Shafi'a, and Nushoor areas for the rebel's military Abdullah al-Rizami. Military sources said Wednesday that al-Rizami's uncle and his brother were found wounded in one of the Rizamat's stormed houses.

Earlier last week, the authorities declared the “sedition” crushed, despite the fact that all the leaders of the uprising were still at large, and that the group was estimated to have 3,000 supporters before the June rebellion.

The government troops are conducting an intensive arrest campaign, against the suspected members of the Faithful Youth movement, a tribal source told Yemen Times. The military troops have finished carding Damaj area to the south of Sa'ada, wherein the al-Houthi supporters are hiding. Around thirty people tried to lead another rebellion but were repressed. Some rebels were killed during the fight, including Mohammed al-Houthi, son of Badreddin al-Houthi, according to the tribal source. This information was not confirmed by official sources. “Around thirty people were arrested while searching the houses , while 60 others gave in themselves to the authority without any resistance, including the district of Hiadan,” the source added. The government forces were able to foil three bombs planted in the market of al-Ana'ad and two more were found near al-Salam hospital, local sources said.

According to eyewitnesses, Sa'ada is a little bit calm now, expect in some areas. However, the humanitarian situation has been described as miserable, because tens of houses have been completely damaged and tens of families are therefore displaced.

Interior and Education ministers paid a visit to Sa'ada last Thursday. They had meetings with tribal Sheikhs and social dignitaries to persuade al-Houthi's supporters to come back to their villages, and settle down in condition of not getting involved in any armed action against the authorities.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh recently branded Zaidi rebels as “subversive, reactionary and backward.” The slain rebel, who was a former member of parliament in 1993 representing al-Haq Islamic party, was accused of fomenting sectarian strife in the country throughout his militant organization, campaigning around the country as well as instigating the dogmatic and

sectarian turbulence, in a society wherein both the Shiites and a majority of Sunni sects lived in harmony for hundred of years, while receiving foreign support to reach this goal. But, he then denied such allegations and said that the conflict with the authority was a result of his anti-US stand. During the main weekly prayers each Friday, Houthi followers used to chant slogans against Israel and the United States, and called for a boycott of American goods. But the authorities which even accused some foreign parties of supporting al-Houthi, arrested hundreds of his followers and said that it was difficult to convince them about their fanatic views.

The minister of interior Rashad al-Alimi told the parliament last July that the “activities of al-Houthi started in 1997 through setting up some unlicensed religious centers in Sa'ada, which then spread in other governorates,” It was added that he also established an armed secret organization which split from al-Haq party, and gave it the name of “al-Shabab al-Mum'en”. He said that some militants of the organization receive monthly salaries ranging from $50 to $200. This shows that there are some foreign forces behind it which the minister did not define.