Sa’ada security situation unstableTwo military officers found dead [Archives:2008/1150/Front Page]

April 28 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, April 27 ) Two army officers were found dead Friday under mysterious circumstances, tribal sources from Sa'ada governorate said Saturday, adding that one of the victims, Hussein Ja'afar, was a relative of a prominent tribal sheikh in the area known for backing the government in its fight with Houthis.

Ja'afar had previously escaped several assassination attempts, allegedly carried out by Houthi supporters, since the war first broke out between the army and Houthi followers in June 2004.

Security forces found both officers' bodies in the Khafji area, near Sa'ada city on the road leading to the Al-Talh district.

The same sources said that the assassinations may be part of an agenda of revenge killings between pro-government tribesmen and Houthi loyalists. According to the sources, the recent series of killings target social dignitaries, prominent tribal leaders and Parliament members belonging to Sa'ada governorate.

The sources continued that the current liquidations also target army and security personnel, recalling to two army members who were killed in Haidan district by anonymous individuals while entering a mosque to perform Friday prayers. The incident led to fierce clashes between government troops and district citizens that continued for hours.

Such developments came following the return of the Qatari mediation team, engaged in the Joint Yemeni-Qatari Presidential Mediation Committee, to Sa'ada to resume their effort in taking government representatives and Houthis back to the dialogue table with the aim of executing the Doha-brokered peace deal signed by both conflicting sides on February 1. The Qatari mediation team returned to Sana'a after deliberations between the Qatari government and Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi in Doha, in which Al-Qirbi delivered a letter from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Emir of Qatar Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad Ali Thani.

The letter stressed the necessity of continuing Qatari mediation efforts, while the Yemeni government pledged to make peace initiatives effective and overcome any obstacles to the ceasefire agreement created by military and security commanders.

President Saleh on Thursday issued a directive excluding the former presidential mediation committee, chaired by Mohammed Saleh Qara'a, from the current mediation efforts because it, according to him, failed to negotiate with Houthis. Meanwhile, a senior government official said the new committee will be comprised of four members, with two representatives from each side.

Houthi representative Sheikh Saleh Habra told the Yemen Times that the former mediation committee failed to do its job because high-ranking officials interfered with its duties and military and security commanders in the governorate refused to pull troops out of villages and citizens' farmlands.

Habra went on to say that senior officials in the government don't want an immediate solution to the crisis. “If they have the will and determination to cease bloodshed, the crisis will be easy to resolve,” he commented. “The government only wastes time forming ineffective and useless mediation committees.”

The Qatari mediation team failed to convince both conflicting sides to return to the dialogue table last week. Since then, tension between government troops and Houthi followers has intensified.

In the same context, local sources from Sa'ada unveiled tribal mediation efforts initiated by some prominent tribal leaders, mainly Sadeq Al-Ahmar, head of Hashid Tribe's sheikhs, with the aim of settling disputes over implementing Term Seven of the Doha-brokered agreement. Under this term, Houthis must abandon their mountaintop positions and return to tents or villages that are free of army troops.

Other local sources in the government noted that Sheikh Al-Ahmar is communicating with many prominent tribal leaders in Sa'ada to end the standing disputes prior to forming the new mediation committee, expected to be announced today.

Al-Ahmar accused national security and intelligence organizations and the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a of withdrawing Yemeni citizens' weapons in a campaign the relevant security authorities have been launching for months in several governorates, acting on orders from the interior ministry.

Speaking to the Islah Party Shoura Council in Amran governorate, Al-Ahmar said that official parties, which he did not name, are fomenting disputes between Yemeni tribes, and therefore provide them with weapons to fight each other.

“These parties provide weapons from army depots to the conflicting tribes so that the clashes between them get more complicated,” he added, criticizing the poor living standards and dire economic situations countrywide. “All the revenues coming from the nation's resources are pocketed by particular individuals,” he concluded.