Tension high in Yemen’s Sanah district after clashes

Published June 10th, 2014 - 01:17 GMT

There is a prevailing sense of tension in the Sanah district of Al-Dhale governorate after soldiers and armored vehicles were deployed in the streets following last week's clashes between the 33rd Armored Brigade and gunmen allegedly linked to the Southern Movement (Hirak). The clashes broke out late Sunday between the gunmen and the brigade lasting for about an hour. According to Mohammed Ahmed Al-Shuaibi, a witness and resident of Sanah district, the gunmen attacked soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades. Al-Shuaibi said that residents of the district fear the renewal of the sort of violence that took place three months ago.

This comes after about ten civilians were injured in recent days in shelling by the the army on Al-Jalela, Al-Ribat, Al-Kebar and Al-Sumait villages in response to an attack on the convoy of Brigadier Abdulla Dhaba'an, commander of the 33rd Armored Brigade, that the military claims was an assassination attempt. Sadeq Al-Hakami, the spokesperson for the brigade, said that the situation escalated after gunmen affiliated with the Southern Movement blocked roads and planted explosive devices along military patrol routes.

"They say that we have stationed our troops in new locations but this isn't true. We only man these positions during states of heightened alert and during clashes and then we withdraw to the brigade's positions,"‌ he added. Al-Hakami said that the military detained three residents on suspicion of planting bombs but they were released on the orders from Sana'a. He said that the brigade ordered a partial withdrawal to its base after a visit by a presidential committee to the area late March.

A presidential committee led by Brigadier Nasser Belakhsha, deputy interior minister, brokered a two-month truce between the gunmen and the brigade in March. According to the terms of the truce, gunmen were to be evacuated and soldiers would return to their barracks, while victims of the violence would be compensated. So far, however, no compensation has been provided by the state.

Waleed Al-Khateeb, the media officer of the Al-Dhale Coordinating Council, said armored vehicles on Sunday morning stormed a Qat market in Sanah district and entered a school they shelled in December and removed all Southern flags.

"The brigade has established new locations and did not withdraw. Military vehicles and soldiers are heavily deployed in the streets of Sanah district,"‌ Al-Khateeb told the Yemen Times. He added that clashes are likely to break out any moment.

Al-Dhale witnessed sporadic armed clashes since late December up until mid-March after 15 civilians were killed in shelling by the 33rd Armored Brigade.

By Ali Ibrahim Al-Moshki

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