Sana’a: Al Houthi rebels began on Tuesday removing their protest camps on the outskirts of the capital as their fighters battled Al Qaida militants and tribesmen in the provinces of Al Bayda and Ibb.
Al Houthis’ official media said that their supporters had dismantled their tents in response to the latest peace deal. On September 21 as they grabbed the capital, the rebels signed a deal with the government aimed at ending weeks of massive rallies against the government in the capital and other provinces.
Under the deal, Yemen’s president named a new neutral prime minster and reinstalled fuel subsidies. In exchange, the Al Houthis would end their protests, pull out of the capital, return military weapons and halt clashes in other provinces.
At the same time, fierce battles between Al Houthi rebels and Al Qaida-allied tribesmen have continued to ravage the southern province of Al Bayda for the second consecutive week despite calls from the Yemen President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to the rebels to halt clashes.
Aiming at expanding their influence over new territories, the Al Houthi rebels faced stiff resistance when they approached the province, which has long been known a stronghold for Al Qaida militants.
Local officials said on Wednesday that the deadly clashes occurred in Al Manaseh, Gaifah and other remote villages in the province.
“I cannot give accurate numbers of the deaths but I can say that hundreds of Al Houthis and the tribesmen have been killed in the clashes,” a local government official told Gulf News by telephone.
Despite their heavy losses, Al Houthis managed to storm the areas after the tribesmen and Al Qaida operatives pulled out to the nearby mountains.
The official said other local tribesmen in the province’s capital, Al Bayda city, formed an alliance called Bayda Tribes Alliance to confront Al Houthi advance in the province.
“There are 3,000 armed fighters ready to stop Al Houthis if they advanced to other regions in the province,”
Until now, the clashes are in areas bordering the province of Dhamar, which is under the Al Houthis control.
The official said that tribal leaders received pledges from the army regiments in the area that they will not aid the Al Houthis or Al Qaida. The official said that a Republican Guard unit stationed in Dhamar province has helped Al Houthis with tanks, cannon and soldiers.
At the same time, many local tribal sources complained that US drones and Yemen warplanes set the stage for Al Houthis victories in Manaseh and Gaifah.
“Air raids by US drones and Yemen planes stopped when the tribesmen contacted the ministry of defence in the capital,” the official said.
The Al Houthis field commanders were not available to comment on clashes, but their spokespersons in their stronghold Saada and Sana’a say that their fighters are clearing the province from Al Qaida militants.
The raging clashes have forced tens of families to flee their homes and take shelter in the neighbouring areas.
Living in the mountains
A government official from the province’s Rada’a district told Gulf News that the displaced families are living in the mountains and relatives’ homes in Rada’a.
“Dozens have left their homes in Al Manaseh and Al Jara’ah regions and settled in caves and relatives’ homes here,” said the official, who preferred to remain anonymous.
The official, who lives near the battlefield, said that the US drones and Yemen aircraft launched as many as 30 strikes on positions of Al Qaida and the tribesmen on Sunday, which led to the withdrawal of the tribe’s fighters.
“The tribesmen have taken advice from Al Qaida to withdraw from the town and launch guerrilla war from the mountains. This method proved effective as the tribesmen managed to ambush reinforcements and killed many Al Houthis.”
On Sunday night, Yemen’s president blasted the rebels and called them to pull out of the cities that they controlled after September 21. He said in a televised speech that the Al Houthis have used fighting Al Qaida as a pretext to seize new areas in the country.
“No group has the right to use fighting Al Qaida as a rationale to occupy provinces and undermine stability,” he said.
But as Hadi was criticising them, Al Houthi fighters clashed with tribesmen led by a tribal leader called Abdul Wahid Adda’am in Radhma region, the northern province of Ibb. Tribal sources said that as many as 19 peoples have been killed from both sides in the last couple of days.