More killed in Bani Hushaish fighting between army and Houthis [Archives:2008/1159/Front Page]

May 29 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, May 28 – According to witnesses, heavy fighting which broke out nearly two weeks ago between Houthi loyalists and army personnel has left dozens of casualties on both sides.

Government troops backed by republican guards and military police clashed with Houthis who infiltrated Bani Hushaish and took over Jamima Mountain, one of the highest mountains surrounding Sana'a.

Yemen's Defense Ministry announced yesterday that military and security forces drove Houthis off the mountain in Bani Hushaish district, which is located in the eastern suburb of the capital city. The mountain overlooks sensitive state installations, most importantly, Sana'a International Airport.

Independent sources noted that the clashes ceased Wednesday morning following the Houthis' withdrawal from Jamima Mountain to other suburbs of Sana'a before sunrise.

Regarding the security situation in northern Sa'ada governorate, local sources confirm that fierce confrontations are taking place between government forces and Houthi supporters, with dozens on both sides reportedly killed or injured.

The same sources add that government troops were forced to abandon Ezzan Mountain, which they took over on Saturday, and move back following bloody clashes with Houthi followers near the mountain.

The sources continued, reporting that other clashes between Yemeni army personnel and Houthis are taking place on Gharaba Mountain and other nearby areas in Sa'ada governorate's Sihar district, leaving dozens of casualties on both sides.

Other local sources from Sa'ada's Haidan district reveal that fierce fighting between Houthis and government forces is taking place in Mirran area, one of the main Houthi strongholds, as well as a starting point of Houthi clashes with the army in June 2004.

The Yemeni army took over Mirran area in September 2004 after it killed the founder of the Faithful Youth Organization, cleric Hussein Badraddin Al-Houthi, brother of current Houthi field leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi.

“Military units backed by sophisticated weaponry and ordnance arrived in Sa'ada Monday evening to then be dispatched to army brigades deployed in the restive governorate after government troops there took control of strategic positions near Amran governorate's Harf Sifyan district,” witnesses from Sa'ada reported, adding, “Dozens on both sides were killed or injured in Harf Sifyan clashes a few days ago.”

According to the eyewitnesses, the Yemeni army is preparing to launch offensives in Khawlan Bani Amer district near the Saudi Arabian border. The district is comprised of Haidan, Dhahir and Saqain areas.

The Yemeni Socialist Party-affiliated reported last week that army brigades assembled in Saqain area after withdrawing from Haidan, which Houthis claim to have seized. It added that army personnel on Kahlan Mountain overlooking Sa'ada city fired Katyusha rockets at Al-Ali Mountain, where Houthis are believed to be entrenched.

Houthis claim that they stopped army forces advancing toward Al-Ghabir area and destroyed numerous military vehicles and tanks during three hours of fierce confrontations.

Conflicting news re: facts on the ground

The Yemen Times has received conflicting reports from Houthis and pro-government media regarding the casualties and devastation from two weeks of fighting between the army and Houthis in Amran's Harf Sifyan district.

According to pro-government media outlets, the army has taken over the entire area, ensuring the safety of the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway, while Houthis claim that the highway remains blocked, adding that they have foiled all government attempts to unblock it.

However, independent sources maintain that the fighting currently is limited to the northeastern parts of Harf Sifyan district, further noting that the Yemeni army is facing fierce resistance from Houthis, who reported last Thursday that they had seized control of strategic positions in the area.

Regarding the human situation in Sa'ada, local residents disclosed that food supplies and propane gas were allowed to reach affected citizens earlier this week; however, such supplies later were halted again following renewed blocking of the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway.

One official said Tuesday that security forces had “dealt with armed tribesmen in Bani Hushaish, which was a pocket of Houthi loyalists led by Abdulmalik Al-Houthi.” Sources say the clashes in the eastern Sana'a suburb were triggered by the May 16 ambush of a senior security chief by Houthi loyalists.

“Houthi supporters are risking the collapse of a recent peace deal reached between the Yemeni government and Houthis in the Qatari capital of Doha this past February 1,” Tariq Al-Shami, head of the General People's Congress media sector, told Aljazeera satellite channel.

“All mediation efforts have been foiled by Houthi supporters, prompting the government to take decisive action,” he pointed out, adding, “We're still receptive to mediation offers because we take mediation initiatives very seriously, but we don't – and will not – tolerate terrorist activities.”

Al-Shami went on to say that, “The state must assume its responsibility and protect its citizens,” indicating that Houthis are seeking to restore a Zaidi imamate in Yemen, which was overthrown by the Sept. 26, 1962 Revolution.