Dozens killed as Sa’ada clashes become fierce [Archives:2008/1167/Front Page]

June 26 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, June 25 ) Bloody confrontations between the Yemeni army and Houthi loyalists have become fierce in several Sa'ada districts, most notably in the areas of Jama'a, Jesr Madar and Jesr Al-Khanaq in Kataf district, where dozens on both sides were killed, informed tribal sources from the restive governorate said Wednesday.

Other tribal sources note that Houthis and army troops have been swapping control of Mahdha area near the south entrance to Sa'ada city following a week of fierce clashes that killed dozens more on both sides.

Yemeni army troops in Mirran are attempting to advance toward strategic positions in an attempt to free several military units besieged by Houthi gunmen in the area.

“Houthis have been working hard since the confrontations erupted to drive military forces from Mirran area, which is believed to be their main strategic position, the starting point of their operations and the home area of their slain leader, Hussein Badraddin Al-Houthi, whom the army killed in September 2004,” the sources say.

The army-affiliated reports that government forces have taken over most strategic positions in Bani Muadth district, once used by Houthis in their fight against the troops, noting that nothing remains in the area except a few pockets of resistance, which the web site expects to be eliminated in the hours to come.

The site quoted what it calls “official Sa'ada sources” as saying that military forces are preparing to raid both Haidan and Matra areas, the latter of which is field leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi's main stronghold. The government believes that senior Houthi fighters are entrenching in these areas.

Media sources expect fierce fighting to occur if the Yemeni army attacks the main stronghold of Houthis' leader in Matra, which was hit with hundreds of rockets when a wave of confrontations erupted between both conflicting sides during the second week of May.

According to, government troops have seized control of Al-Ammar and Al-Saifi areas and now are advancing toward Dhahian city, located 8 kilometers north of the provincial capital.

Houthi relatives deny the authenticity of reports published by pro-government media outlets, claiming that they are strongly resisting all offensives by government troops against their strategic positions while maintaining that their current capacity to defend themselves and fight the Yemeni army is better than before.

The Yemeni Socialist Party-affiliated has quoted informed sources as saying that Houthi gunmen shot down an MI-8 helicopter at 10 a.m. Tuesday as it hovered over the 17th Military Division, which has been besieged for more than a month, in an attempt to supply its troops with food and ordinance.

The site's sources say that members of the 17th Military Division – besieged in Mirran area for 44 days now – are angry at the government's seeming indifference toward releasing them, so they've begun telephoning media outlets to complain about their harsh conditions.

The besieged troops say they lack basic living necessities such as food, water and medication, particularly as they are subjected to frequent Houthi assaults. They note that sympathetic boys in the area had been supplying them with food until Houthis discovered this and stopped them from doing so two days ago.

The besieged troops include division commander Abdulaziz Al-Shahari, whom Houthis blame for intensifying the blockade on various Mirran villages after a July 2007 ceasefire agreement reached by both sides in Doha went into effect. Houthis further accuse Al-Shahari, a Salafi extremist, of insulting Zaidi ideology.

On Sunday, Houthis shot dead Mohammed Al-Fadhli, head of the 10th Military Division's training unit, in Al-Sama as he was surveying the area prior to a planned attack against the strongholds of Houthi leaders in Matra district.

Houthi field leader's condition

Asked about the condition of Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, whose arm was injured in clashes with the army a few days ago, one of his relatives responded to the Yemen Times by telephone on Wednesday that the field leader is in good condition, adding that he is continuing to lead battles against Yemeni government troops.

Al-Houthi's relative further denied the veracity of media reports alleging that the leader had been killed.

Human situation

Regarding the human situation in the war-ravaged governorate, sources from the provincial capital say that dozens of farmers demonstrated Sunday in front of the city's government complex, protesting against the authorities, who aren't allowing them to transport their agricultural products to Sana'a.

The same sources went on to say that, “Farmers demonstrated after their vehicles filled with fruits and vegetables weren't allowed to travel to Sana'a,” noting that despite their top quality, fruit sales are poor.

According to the sources, a military checkpoint in Amran's Harf Sifyan district is contributing to complicating the entry of food and fuel supplies to Sa'ada, as well as the transport of Sa'ada agricultural products to other areas.

Additionally, local residents complain that Sa'ada city suffers frequent nightly blackouts lasting for hours due to lack of diesel supplies needed by the city's electrical generators. They add that the price of propane gas has exceeded YR 2,000 per cylinder.

Residents further reveal that the numbers of displaced families evacuating their rural homes for Sa'ada city are on the increase, expressing concern that epidemics may spread among these displaced families due to lack of basic services.