Sa’ada security situation relatively calm despite violations [Archives:2008/1176/Local News]

July 28 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, July 27 ) The security situation in Sa'ada is relatively calm, with the exception of minor violations several individuals committed against a truce the Yemeni government and Houthis recently signed, reliable sources from the restive governorate said Sunday.

The sources continued that Houthi gunmen still are entrenched in their strategic mountaintop positions, while at the same time moving with full alert for fear of surprise attacks by Yemeni army personnel.

Houthis also complain that the army has not withdrawn from their farmlands and villages, according to the ceasefire agreement signed by their field leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi and President Ali Abdullah Saleh, adding that the government coercively pulled its troops deployed in Mirran district due to the district's harsh topography.

Members of the Hashid and Bakil tribes are gathering in Amran governorate in the name of the newly established “Popular Army” and preparing for a new war against Houthis, despite Saleh's recent declaration that military operations in Sa'ada “are over.”

Other tribal sources note that both conflicting sides are preparing for a new war, adding that the announcement to end the Sa'ada war was merely a temporary truce intended to help the army reshuffle its units and convince Houthis to make concessions in favor of the government.

Many political observers cast doubt on the credibility of intentions to end the war, particularly since the decision to end the fighting was opposed by senior military commanders and Salafi members, who are working according to a foreign agenda.

Injured army members protest

Members of the 17th Military Division who were injured in the war protested on Saturday in front of the Military Hospital in Hodeidah, holding and iron rods and causing traffic jams. They were protesting military leaders' alleged indifference toward them following the end of the Sa'ada war and the suspension of their financial entitlements.

The protesters were among those troops besieged by Houthi gunmen in Mirran for nearly 50 days during the most recent confrontations between the army and Houthis. They incurred various injuries in the fighting.

They complain that their commanders promised them financial compensation for their war injuries, adding that they've been pursuing compensation-related measures for a week, but have received nothing thus far.

The ailing soldiers went on to note that they had traveled to Sa'ada to obtain the compensation, but their commanders forced them to return to Hodeidah. They vow to escalate their protests unless they obtain their full compensation, as their commanders promised.

Regarding the human situation in the war-ravaged governorate, Sa'ada Governor Hassan Mana'a confirmed to official media outlets that around 70 percent of displaced residents have returned home within the past few days.

According to him, enhancing security and stability in war-affected areas is one of the main reasons for providing citizens various development and service projects, and reconstructing those homes and villages damaged in the fighting.

A recently formed government-wide committee, chaired by Local Administration Minister Abdulqader Ali Hilal, has begun assessing the war's damage in several Sa'ada areas.

During a Saturday meeting in Sa'ada's provincial capital, Hilal emphasized the necessity of ending the war. “The decision to end the war is a courageous one reflecting the political leadership's concern to cease bloodshed and restore security and stability to the governorate.”

Hilal confirmed that the process of reconstruction and development is a national issue equally as important as enhancing security and stability. “The state and its political leadership care much about fostering development and reconstructing those areas damaged by the war,” he stated.

Well-informed sources note that the Yemeni government still has not released those individuals detained for alleged links with Houthis, although this is one of the ceasefire agreement's terms.

Family of detained cleric appeals to president

The wife and children of cleric Mohammed Miftah, who has been detained in a political security jail for his alleged connections with Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, have appealed to President Saleh to release their family's breadwinner. Before he was jailed, Miftah headed Al-Haq Party's Shoura Council.

“I contacted the Political Security Organization more than once to release my husband, but I was told to go to President Saleh,” Miftah's wife says in a letter published by a human rights group desiring to remain anonymous.

Armed police affiliated with the Interior Ministry abducted Miftah on May 21 near the Sana'a-based Military College. His abductors fired into Miftah's car and dragged him from it, leaving his family members at the scene.

Government authorities have not yet charged the Zaidi cleric, nor have they indicated why he was detained. In 2006, the State Security Court sentenced Miftah to 14 years in prison for alleged links to Houthis before the sentence was annulled by a presidential decree.