Over 20 killed, 15 injured in renewed Sa’ada clashes [Archives:2008/1145/Local News]

April 10 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, April 9 ) Media sources quoted witnesses as saying the fighting between the pro-government Al-Bukhtan tribe and Houthi supporters killed more than 20 people and injured 15 others on both sides, adding that government troops joined Al-Bukhtan tribe in their fight against Houthis, attacking Houthis' strategic positions with heavy mortars and tanks.

“The clashes between military soldiers, backed by pro-government tribesmen, and Houthi followers broke out at a market in the Al-Salem area after the pro-government tribe accused Houthis of killing one of its members two months ago,” the sources went on to say. Other local sources from Sa'ada confirmed that armed confrontations between some Houthi loyalists and Al-Rabou tribesmen broke out Friday in the Juma'a district, leaving 10 people on both sides dead. According to the sources, the confrontations erupted over the killing of a prominent tribal sheikh belonging to Al-Rabou tribe in Ghamr area a few months ago. Fighting between pro-government tribesmen and Houthis escalated amid failed efforts to convince the government and Houthis to abide by a recent peace deal brokered by Doha on February 1.

Other bloody confrontations between pro-government tribesmen and Houthi supporters in the areas of Al-Salem, Al-Saifi, Al-Talh, Al-Anad and Khawlan Bani Amer ceased on Tuesday, reliable sources from Sa'ada said, adding that the pro-government fighters withdrew to Sa'ada city where they were received by the governor, chief of security department and other senior security and military officials.

“Through televising the scene where the Sa'ada governor and other senior officials received tribesmen backing the government in its fight with Houthis by Yemen Satellite Channel, it has been made clear that the authority provides unlimited logistic and material assistance to mercenaries to liquidate any activists in the governorate,” Houthi representative Sheikh Saleh Habra told the Yemen Times on Wednesday.

He continued, “The bloody campaign, which the murderous tribesmen launched against Houthi followers, failed, as only two of our followers were killed and another four injured. The campaign destroyed homes, including the four-story house of a Jewish citizen in the Al Salem area, and other private property.”

The Jewish citizen, Yahya Yousif, told the Yemen Times by phone that his house was totally destroyed, adding that private property worth more than YR 5 million was looted. Yousif said he could not accuse any party due to inadequate evidence.

The restive governorate north of Sana'a has been experiencing repeated clashes and armed confrontations between Houthi loyalists and government troops since 2004. Hussein Badraddin Al-Houthi, founder of the 'Faithful Youth Organization' was killed by the army during a gunfire exchange in September of that year. The government accuses Houthis of planning a coup against it and replacing it with an Imamate regime, similar to the one overthrown by the September 26th revolution in North Yemen.

On a side note, the Nasserite Unionist Popular Organization, an opposition party, praised the Joint Meeting Parties' position for the efforts expended so far by local and Gulf mediators to end the fighting and cease bloodshed in the war-ravaged governorate.

The opposition coalition strongly rejected the government's insistence to resolve the Sa'ada crisis in a way contravening the constitution and law, adding that the government deals with the issue as if it is related with the ruling party only while other non-governmental organizations and political parties appear as if they have nothing to do with the issue.

A new mediation committee, comprised of government officials and Sa'ada tribal leaders, started its job on Saturday by attempting to calm the tension that resulted in the killing of 20 people in Al- Salem area earlier this week. According to local sources, the committee freed many of Sheikh Shayea Bakhtan's followers, who were besieged in the area. The released tribesmen were then transferred to Sa'ada city until the conflicting sides reach a solution to the pressing 45-day turmoil that followed the killing of Sheih Bakhtan and burning of his car.

Ruling party-affiliated motamar.net reported that the State Security Court decided to adjourn the trial of the Sana'a Second Cell, accused of having connections with Abdulmalik Al-Houthi and his followers. The cell includes 14 suspects, among them Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, editor of Al-Shoura Weekly, and two women.

During its most recent hearing, chaired by Judge Mohsen Mohammed Alwan, the court listened to a response made by the prosecution to an appeal filed by the defense team of Al-Khaiwani. In its response, the prosecution said it has clear evidence of Al-Khawiani's connection with Houthis.

The prosecution accused the cell members of being involved in an armed band which launches offensive attacks and has plots to destabilize stability and security countrywide. It also accused the cell of possessing different kinds of weapons, explosives, toxic material, telephone devices, large sums of money and tapes. According to the prosecution, the cell assigns duties to its comrades to assault military and security institutions, other vital installations and military vehicles.