Tensions rise between Shiites and Sunnis as army mobilizes in Sa’ada
Reports of increased tensions between local Shiite residents in Sa’ada and Sunni militia have intensified. Local Sa’ada residents also stated on that the army is mobilizing both medium and heavy infantry in more than one district and is building roads to new sites. The army is also sending reinforcements to troops centred in many strategic areas in the Sa’ada region and is establishing new checkpoints.
Shiite residents in the Sa’ada area have reported that thousands of Jihadist groups including Yemenis and foreigners from neighbouring Arab and non-Arab countries – started gathering in areas around villages and towns where Houthi supporters live. Houthi supporters claim that these groups are gathering against the Houthis in coordination with the army.
A security source at the Ministry of Interior denied government’s intensions of the government to launch a sixth war in Sa’ada post two soldiers were killed last Friday by Houthi supporters.
(8 April 2009)
Analysis and forecast (↑ increasing risk)
Tensions in the northern part of Yemen are gradually increasing on two fronts. First, the traditional tensions between the Houthis and the government forces are increasing, with the fragile ceasefire that ended the fifth Sa’ada war, becoming increasingly untenable. Second, Al Qaeda are reported to be establishing training camps in the same area. Al Qaeda’s presence in the area poses threats on two fronts. The first is that it provides training grounds for Al Qaeda fighters to launch attacks in Saudi Arabia, which shares a porous border with the area and the second is that it would encourage increased hostilities between Al Qaeda fighters and the Houthis. The latest accusations from the Houthis that the mostly Sunni Yemeni army is working with Al Qaeda to fight the Houthis may be questionable. However, it may well be the case that given the resource problem facing the Yemeni security forces, the army may turn a blind eye on Al Qaeda fighters acting against their common enemy, the Houthis.
The effect of this is that it will further strengthen the position of Al Qaeda in Yemen and make it more difficult for the Yemeni security forces to combat Al Qaeda. Army mobilizes forces in Sa’ada as Sunni-Shiite tensions rise.