Al-Houthi leader sets conditions for surrender [Archives:2007/1022/Front Page]

February 5 2007

Mohamed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Feb. 4 ) Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, leader of the rebellion in Sa'ada, located 245 km. north of Sana'a, said Sunday that he's ready to surrender to Sa'ada's governor, but on condition that his followers may live in safety and the army must abide by the truce signed by the governor and endorsed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He also conditioned that the Yemeni government compensate those affected by the war, release detainees and withdraw its troops from the province.

While the army has given Al-Houthi followers a 48-hour deadline to give up and surrender their arms, Sa'ada city residents confirmed that they still heard the sound of artillery bombardments in various areas of the restive province throughout the night until Sunday morning.

“One senior military officer and an effective commander of military units in Sa'ada stressed Friday evening that military forces had completed their preparation to wage a war with a wider scope against Al-Houthi loyalists. War will begin in the coming hours on all fronts, including the areas of Al-Naqa'a, Madhab, Al-Refraf and Al-Saifi, unless Abdulmalik Al-Houthi and his aides surrender before the deadline,” Al-Ishtiraki Net quoted well-informed sources in Sana'a as saying.

According to these sources, the chief commander of military units in Sa'ada on Friday rejected any mediation efforts between the government and Al-Houthi followers. The sources believe mediation is behind continuing the fighting for more than three years.

President Saleh last week demanded Abdulmalik Al-Houthi and his tribesmen surrender their heavy arms; otherwise, they shouldn't blame the government for any consequence after such warning.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera television, Tareq Al-Shami, the ruling party's media and culture officer, listed three conditions for Al-Houthi loyalists so that the Yemeni army will stop pursuing them: surrender their heavy arms, hand over those who fired upon armed forces and cease any political activities contravening Yemeni law and its Constitution.

In a letter to members of Yemen's Parliament, Al-Houthi urged the parliamentarians to support the oppressed and those who are right, as well as play an integral role in solving the issues. “Your responsibility before Allah and people isn't easy. You must take an effective role in settling this crisis because Sa'ada is part of Yemen,” he wrote.

“We, along with the mediation committee and the state's representatives, reached an agreement to tackle the issue. No one from our side broke the agreement; however, both we and the mediators are shocked at the most recent escalation by government forces,” the rebellion leader went on to say.

“The government waged a media campaign against us, followed by a military campaign in the area of Madhab without any justification or reason. The army killed and wounded several of our locals, who were compelled to defend themselves. This was followed by threats of waging a wider ranging war upon us and our sect.”

He added that the mediation committee informed the group about President Saleh's threats to attack their area. “Saleh breached all of the agreements and truces and gave us less than a three-hour deadline to surrender ourselves and our weapons and descend from the mountains where we've been living after our houses were demolished,” Al-Houthi decried.

Concluding his letter, Al-Houthi said, “We confirm to you [MPs] and the entire world that we are abiding by the agreement reached with the mediation committee. We appeal to you and everyone to learn about our oppression and contribute to the safety of civilians and military troops because war will swallow everything green and dried.”

In previous statements to Al-Jazeera television, Al-Houthi emphasized that he's ready for any possible solution to the bloodshed and denied that his aides possess heavy arms, adding that his tribesmen have only simple arms like those ordinary Yemeni citizens possess.

According to unconfirmed reports, threats of a war with a wider scope are in response to Al-Houthi's comments to Al-Jazeera last week. The mediation committee's meeting with Al-Houthi aides hasn't come up with any solution following military commanders' refusal to accept any reconciliation with Al-Houthi.

Military commanders want Abdulmalik Al-Houthi to surrender within 48 hours without any conditions or restrictions. This was understood as a military escalation by authorities, as well as a refusal of any mediation efforts aimed at stopping the bloodshed in Sa'ada.

Political observers warn that the situation in Sa'ada may become riskier, thereby increasing the death toll of both parties in the fighting. Due to the risky situation in the northern governorate, the National Defense Council met last Saturday, chaired by President Saleh as the High Commander of the Armed Forces, in the presence of the Supreme Security Committee and numerous officials who listened to the development of events in Sa'ada. The council usually meets in similar cases requiring making a decision for war.

Some Al-Houthi supporters say they're ready to sign a cease-fire with government troops on condition that the latter withdraw from the area, pointing out that they nominated Sa'ada's governor to form a committee to investigate the events of the past two days. They urged those with clear consciences to help them end the crisis.

Official sources said via Al-Motamar Net, mouthpiece of the ruling party, that “A committee made up of religious clerics and social personalities is attempting to persuade Al-Houthi-led rebels to stop clashing with the army, vacate their positions and surrender their arms.”

The Shoura Council called on all Yemeni parties to meet this past Sunday to discuss various issues, including the Sa'ada clashes. The council's invitation followed a Yemeni Socialist Party statement demanding that the fighting be investigated.

According to speculations, the Shoura Council – instead of the ruling party – called on the Yemeni parties to stop upholding fighting in the province, which has experienced excessive military presence within the past few days, and condemn the Al-Houthi-led rebellion.

Sources closer to the mediation committee reveal that the committee suggested a cease-fire between the fighting parties, while the government should be committed to fulfill President Saleh's promises regarding approving compensation for war victims. Following a cease-fire, Abdulmalik Al-Houthi and Abdullah Al-Rizami may go to Sana'a to meet with Saleh, according to the sources.