Latest report reveals that the 24 Killed and 34 Injured in Mareb resulted from misunderstanding WHAT WENT WRONG? [Archives:2001/52/Front Page]

December 24 2001


The latest reports about the reasons behind the massacre that took place in Mareb governorate last week show that a gross misunderstanding led to the death of the 24. Unlike what was reported earlier that security forces cracked down on sponsors of suspect terrorists in Mareb and launched an assault to hunt them down, the truth is that the attack was not planned whatsoever, and the whole event erupted due a misunderstanding. It was reported that tribesmen from Abeda opened fire on the security forces upon hearing a loud explosion that they thought was them being under attack. However, later it was concluded that the sound resulted from a military plane that broke the sound barrier.
To investigate the cause of the incident, Sheikhs of Abeda tribe in Mareb reached an agreement on Friday with commanders of security forces stationed in Mareb to form a committee comprising of many sheikhs, Minister of Defense and Interior Vice-minister. The committee will be entrusted with investigating into the latest incidents that took place last Tuesday between the Republican Guard contingents and tribesmen from Abeda tribe. The clashes claimed lives of 24 persons, 19 from the Republican Guard troops including the commander of the contingent, Colonel Saleh Mulfi and 3 persons from Abeda tribe plus two women.
The confrontations erupted after those troops attempted to arrest a person called Abu Assem, who lives in Hussun Al-Jalal area in Mareb, 10 km east of Mareb City. Abu Assem had fled his hometown Hudaidah three years ago.
The troops had also been searching for Abu Ali al-Harethi also known as Qaed Sunian, believed to have taken refuge in Abeda tribe. Earlier armed troops headed by Minister of Defense besieged al-Harthis house located in Usselan district in Shabwa.
In a move to ease tension in the region, ten sheikhs from Abeda tribe gave in themselves as hostages to officials of Mareb governorate with the view of avoiding any retaliatory action by government troops. Abedas sheikhs also abandoned Abu Assem because he neither belongs to the tribe nor he is a protégé of the tribe, a tribal source commented. Bani Al-Hareth tribe has also handed over ten persons as hostages who had been subsequently moved to Sanaa until Qaed Sufian al-Harethi is found. Al-Harethi suspected to belong to al-Qaeda network, successfully escaped the siege imposed on his house last Monday night when he had pretended that he would surrender himself on condition that the government should not extradite him to the USA. The authorities agreed on his terms; however, he asked for the son of the Minister of Defense and the son of a prominent sheik as hostages to be presented to his relatives. Al-Harethi took advantage of the time of negotiations to escape from the house and the government troops found no means to retaliate but to demolish his house.
Yemen Times correspondent in the region reported that Hussun Jalal, a densely populated district in Mareb was a scene for mediation brokered between sheikhs from Marebs tribes and Abeda tribe regarding the issue of prisoners. Visiting the site of the armed confrontations we merely found destroyed military hardware, the correspondent added.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, one of the mediators, told the Yemen Times, the governments troops arrived at Hussun Jalal in the early morning and demanded searching some houses there. Sheikhs who were present at that time ordered facilitating the troops mission, who searched and videotaped these houses. Sheiks also informed the troops that Abu Assem, who used to have a honey shop in Hussun Jalal and lived in the same district, had left the area in mid-Ramadan to unknown area.
During the presence of troops and the gathering of tribesmen, some aircraft started flying over the area and then we heard the sound of two powerful explosions that rocked the area. At that moment both government’s troops and the tribesmen present in the site started exchanging heavy fire.
A tribal source said the situation broke out just when warplanes began bombarding the area, although government officials said that it was rather the sound of the aircraft, which broke the sound-barrier to be mistakenly interpreted by tribesmen as a consequence of bombardment. The battle between government forces and tribesmen lasted for several hours, during which government forces showered the area with Katusha and tank cannons.
Al-Kadadi with his wife and young child, Hussan bin Hussein Muthana and Saleh al-Agrushi, all belong to Abeda tribe were killed during the shelling. Two women from Al-Nudylan family, were also killed.
During our visit to the site of clashes we saw 3 armored vehicles and 3 personnel carriers totally destroyed. The institute where the clashes was partially ruined.
“The situation just came back to normal when the tribal sheikhs contacted the top military officials in Mareb and asked them to end the artillery shelling of the area. We subsequently agreed upon an armistice for two days,” Sheikh Ali Abu Aayn said. Similarly, the tribesmen handed over 23 troopers who were captured during the fighting and ensured the mediators that they will bring back all the military equipment belonging to Republican Guard troops.
Sheikh Muhssen bin Ali Jalal, a leading Sheikh in the area, said, “the whole story is a matter of misunderstanding, as the tribesmen of the region are fully cooperative with the authorities in tracking down all terrorist elements that may exist here.” The same sheikh added that the tribes in the region would neither play host for terrorist nor they would protect them. Another person who requested anonymity, commented that there are no terrorists in our area. I hope that our government will not make of us an escaped-goat merely to please the U.S. administration.