Pro-government tribesmen trigger clashes with Houthi followers [Archives:2008/1200/Front Page]

October 20 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Oct. 19 ) The situation in Sa'ada has been calm with the exception of some localized disputes triggered by pro-government tribesmen against Houthi supporters in more than one district, tribal sources from the governorate said on Sunday.

Speaking on behalf of Houthi field leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, Sheikh Saleh Habra told the Yemen Times by phone that a group of armed men belonging to the pro-government Al-Bushr tribe had intercepted some Houthi supporters while they were on their way to a popular market in the area of Saqain.

The interceptors did not allow the Houthis to enter the market t shop and quarreled with them, Habra said, adding that three Houthis were injured in the incident while one of the attackers from the Al-Bushr tribe was killed and another two tribe members wounded.

Asked about conditions in the refugee camps, Habra replied, “The refugees' situation is tragic and their living conditions are expected to worsen with the advent of winter. What we hear via the official media on relief efforts are merely speeches with no real actions on the ground.”

Habra urged humanitarian relief organizations to provide urgent aid to refugees including blankets, medicine and other medical equipment, and to restore water and sanitation systems.

Regarding local schools' preparation to receive students, Habra noted, “The authority said it would provide tents for students to attend classes in as an alternative to damaged schools in cooperation with international organizations. But until now, none of these promises has been fulfilled.”

Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmad and Northern Military Flank Commander Ali Mohsen Saleh are attempting to control the situation in the Harf Sifyan district of Amran governorate after five soldiers were killed and many others injured in clashes between local tribesmen and republican guard members two weeks ago.

According to a well-informed source from Harf Sifyan, the clashes first broke out when members of the Bin Aziz tribe went to Al-Ammar market where they met Brig. Hamid Muqbil Chairman of Harf Sifyan Local Council, who was accompanied by a dozen policemen aboard a police vehicle.

The policemen attacked the tribesmen, killing citizen Mohsen Haqula and disfiguring him in the market for being allegedly a Houthi loyalist, although he has no relation with Abdulmalik Al-Houthi.

“Black shame”

As a result, many members of the victim's tribe gathered in Harf Sifyan district, denouncing the way Haqula was killed and labeled it, according to the tribal tradition, as “black shame”.

In an incident which was the first of its kind since the Sa'ada fighting ceased on July 17, members of the Bin Aziz tribe intercepted a military caravan and opened fire on it, thereby setting fire to two troop carriers and two military vehicles and killing five members of the republican guard including a senior officer, media sources reported.

Some media outlets labeled the incident as clashes between Houthi followers and the army in the Al Ammar area, saying it is the beginning of a sixth war in Sa'ada, however, Abdulmalik Al-Houthi immediately denied that his followers have relations with the two incidents in Al Ammar and Harf Sifyan districts.

According to witnesses, the Sana'a-Sa'ada highway was blocked by members of the Usaimat tribe who thereby halted the movement of passengers to Sa'ada, Haradh and nearby districts and caused traffic jams along the road.

Usaimat tribesmen claim compensations from government

Local sources said that the tribesmen deliberately had blocked the highway in order to show their rage and press the government to compensate them for losing their sons in the Sa'ada fighting. According to the sources, more than three thousand solders from the Usaimat tribe were killed or injured during the four-year fighting between the army and Houthis in Sa'ada and other areas.

The same sources declared that security authorities in the Amran governorate had not reacted to the blocking of the Sana'a-Sa'ada Highway.