Army-backed tribes and Houthi rebels resumed fighting in north Yemen. A tribal leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the confrontation resumed because the two sides have no confidence in each other and that the mediators, composed of tribal chieftains from Mareb province, did not have a clear vision of how to implement a sustainable truce. It was reported that there have been several days of fierce battles between the Shia Houthis on one side and soldiers and al Aziz, a government-backed tribe, on the other, during the past five days have left more than 50 people dead and dozens wounded and marked the deadliest fighting in the region since a ceasefire in February.
The north of the country, mainly Sa’ada, has endured six rounds of fighting since an on-and-off war erupted in 2004. Thousands have been killed and wounded in the fighting and about 250,000 displaced, according to the United Nations.
Unrelated, three protestors were wounded in the southern province of Abyan when police opened fire to disperse hundreds of supporters of the Southern Movement, which is demanding the separation of southern Yemen from the north. Southern Movement activists staged the protest after Friday prayers to commemorate a bloody confrontation with police on 23 July 2009 in which 23 people from both sides were killed. It is reported that over 20 may have been killed in clashes between seperatists and government forces in the past two weeks. However, with no independent sources to confirm, exact figures are very difficult to corroborate.
In another development, al Qa’eda yesterday claimed responsibility for twin attacks on security and intelligence headquarters in the southern Yemen town of Zinjibar on 14 July, in which three people were killed. Yemen’s branch of al Qa’eda, known as al Qa’eda in the Arabian Peninsula, said in a statement posted on Islamist websites that “dozens were killed and wounded” in the attack. It also said one of its fighters was killed and two wounded in the raid.
July 24, 2010
Analysies and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The possible re-ignition of the fighting in northern Yemen's Saada region is especially worrying as it comes at a time when the central government struggles to contain a rapidly deteriorating front in South Yemen. There, the central government is simultaneously fighting the Southern seperatists, and Al Qaeda who is determined to overthrow the regime.
The last, sixth Saada war ended earlier this year with a ceasefire, after dragging in Saudi Arabia and resulted in humanitarian difficulties. The events recently imply that the ceasefire is fragile indeed and close to breaking. If this happens, there are risks on three counts:
- The resources of the central government are already stretched fighting in the south, so will find it difficult to fight on the third front. This could explain the government’s new tactic of increasingly relying on other tribes to fight the Houthis on its behalf. This is a very risk approach that threatens to turn into an even more prolonged civil war;
- Possibility of Saudi action against the Shiite Houthi rebels, with regional implications;
- Further humanitarian problems to the ones already created by the last war at a time when the United Nations have warned that there insufficient funds available to cope with the humanitarian crisis the last war created, with about 340,000 displaces.
The news is further evidence that the central government is losing its grip on the country and a demonstration of how a break-up of Yemen can not only effect Yemen itself, but have very serious regional implications.