Army leaders foil mediation, say Houthi supporters [Archives:2008/1149/Front Page]

April 24 2008

By:Yemen Times Staff
SA'ADA, April 23 ) Citizens in Sa'ada province, the scene of fierce clashes between the army and Al-Houthi rebel group, are apprehensive that the army and the Houthis might resume warring after several months of respite, well-informed local sources told the Yemen Times.

“The Qatari delegation left Yemen last Monday after reaching an impasse due to the Northern Area Commander Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmer refusing to implement the agreement appendix signed by the government represented by Abdul-Karim Al-Eryani,” the sources added. The appendix states that life should go back to normal with the army abandoning houses, farms, civil facilities such as schools, courts and local governance buildings. According to the agreement, the army shouldn't set up more than one checkpoint in each county of the province.

“The Presidential Committee has settled down in Sana'a and suspended all types of mediation activity between the government and the Houthis,” the source said.

In an exclusive statement to the Yemen Times, Sheikh Saleh Habrah, representative of the Houthis, commented on the Qatari Mediation Committee's failure yesterday saying that, “The reason why the Qatari efforts landed at a deadlock was the Military Area Command's refusal to implement the agreement article providing for 'bringing life back to normal' in Sa'ada.”

“The departure of the Qatari Committee coincided with an unprecedented smear campaign launched by pro-police apparatus newspapers against the state of Qatar. Al-Shomoa Newspaper, one of the main military settlement advocates since the 2004 eruption of Sa'ada war, claimed last Sunday that Qatar aims to put an end to Sa'ada war, serving a hidden Iranian agenda with U.S. support,” Habrah explained.

“The authorities had detained Sheikh Najee Saleh Bakhtan, a representative of Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi on the Presidential-Qatari-Houthi Committee, last Tuesday and held him in an undisclosed location, giving no justification for the detention,” He added.

Habrah said that they had spared no efforts to break the ice. “We have forwarded suggestions many times for settlement, all of which fell on deaf ears. The Houthis have repeatedly reiterated their intent to leave their mountain positions entirely and are willing to return to their villages, work, farms and houses. They said they are ready to abandon all counties and Azzan mountain no later than 15 days after the army's abandonment of citizens' houses, villages and farms.”

He warned of the serious situation, pinpointing many breaches committed by the army and the security forces since the Houthis lifted the siege on Brigade 17's commander and two battalions in the Jum'a bin Fadhil area before several months.

“Frequency of breaches has increased. Military presence is visible in Khawlan bin Amer area and other areas. Citizens are harassed at checkpoints and gunshots are fired at villages and across roads,” he said.

Commenting on the killing of MP Saleh Daghsan last Friday by unknown gunmen, Habrah accused the military of the murder or at least collusion. “The man was murdered near a military post that directly overlooked the road where he was driving. This incident could not have been done without the military's involvement or collusion. The authority hurled this charge at us on the grounds that the murder occurred in Al-Hadb area, within Sahar county, to south of Sa'ada.

The authorities claim that they have detained some suspects implicated in the murder, which is untrue and we have not been informed.”

Local sources in Al-Hadb area told Yemen Times that the suspects had eaten lunch on the day of the murder in the house of an allegedly pro-state person. Al-Hadb is close to the ambush scene that claimed the lives of MP Daghsan, his son, one of his guards and injured six others, three of whom were hospitalized with serious injuries.

The Sa'ada local authority exchanged accusations with the Houthis over the murder. Each of them claimed the other side was involved in the killing of Daghsan.

On the other hand, tribal sources said that Al-Hadb tribes follow Sheikh Abu Ubaid and that they have not been infiltrated by the Houthis. “There are no Houthi supporters among our tribesmen,” the sources said, suggesting that the murder might have been a revenge killing.

Meanwhile, sources close to the Daghsan family said that they thought the Houthis were unlikely to be involved in the death of their relative. They do not point the finger in any direction.

Earlier Al-Husaini tribes, clans known to have historical feuds with the Daghsan clan, tribally disclaimed any responsibility for the murder. Sources said that representatives of the tribes that may have wanted to take revenge on the Daghsan clan participated in the funeral rituals to prove their innocence. The sources added they did not kill the deceased MP because they could have simply announced it according to tribal conventions. It is customary when a Yemeni tribe takes revenge for the killing of one of its members, they send out certain signs and fire gunshots near the grave of their deceased to “tell him” that they have taken revenge on the killer or one of his relatives and that he may rest in peace. The identity of the perpetrator or perpetrators remains to be seen.