Houthi rebels move against allies of slain ex-president Saleh

Son of former Yemen president calls for revenge against Houthi for Monday’s attack

Houthi followers rally in Sana’a on Tuesday to celebrate the killing of Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Houthi followers rally in Sana’a on Tuesday to celebrate the killing of Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

 

Houthi rebels fighting their former allies in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, have moved against a group of diehard loyalists of the former president who was killed on Monday as he attempted to flee the city.

The clashes near what had been Ali Abdullah Saleh’s house came as residents seized on the relative calmness elsewhere in Sana’a to go out after five days of street fighting to hoard food.

Sources on the ground said that Houthi fighters had coalesced around a small area in Hada Street to remove the last stronghold of remaining Saleh loyalists who had refused to surrender. A video posted by Ansar Allah media centre, a Houthi mouthpiece, showed dozens of detained Saleh loyalist fighters.

Businesses opened as usual on Tuesday and people rushed to stockpile food, fearing a return of the chaotic fighting seen over the weekend as the fragile alliance of Houthi rebels and Saleh forces was shattered. The clashes left at least 230 people dead and thousands more injured.

Lockdown

Aid workers in Sana’a are in lockdown. Rajat Madhok, a Unicef official said: “Ambulances and medical teams can’t access the injured, people trapped in the fighting cannot buy food and other essential supplies. Aid workers can’t travel and implement critical life-saving programmes.”

Resentment towards the Houthis appeared to be building, as people who have not been paid salaries for more than a year have become frustrated by the stalemated conflict and Saudi bombing raids.

Saleh, a former leader who ruled Yemen for more than 33 years, was killed on Monday by the Iran-backed Houthis after he signalled he was ending his uneasy alliance with the rebels and swapping sides, opening channels to Saudi Arabia.

Saleh’s reluctant departure from power in 2012 – forced on him by the Arab spring – brought his Saudi-backed deputy, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, into office. In 2014, Saleh forged an unlikely alliance with the Houthis, his longtime enemies, helping them to take over Sana’a.

The offensive forced Mr Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia and sparked a conflict that has plunged the Arab world’s poorest nation into a humanitarian crisis, leaving it on the brink of famine and facing an unprecedented cholera crisis.

“Saleh was our president since we were born, we don’t how our life will be without him,” said Mustafa, a resident of Sana’a. “People are sad, even those who I know that used to hate him. Houthi are hated by all people, they are there with the power of weapons and money, Saleh had the power of people around him.”

Son’s ‘revenge’

Saleh’s exiled son, Ahmed Ali Saleh, was quoted by a Saudi news network as saying he was seeking revenge. “I will lead the battle until the last Houthi is thrown out of Yemen . . . the blood of my father will be hell ringing in the ears of Iran, ” he said.

Ahmad Algohbary, a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a, said the Houthis now had a strong hand in the capital because Saleh’s forces had either surrendered or were too afraid to resist.

“It was life as usual today, but three days ago it was like hell. Nobody could get out, I couldn’t go out to get water, it was gunfire everywhere, mortar shell was close to our home, my mum was crying,” he said.

“I got out today, I saw people outside, they’re buying. They used to buy half a kilo of things, like half a kilo of tomatoes, and now they’re buying three to four kilos because they’re afraid of the next days.”

Osamah al Faqih, a human rights researcher based in Sana’a, had to leave his house alongside his wife and shelter at a relative’s home when the clashes started on Thursday.

“Since Saleh’s death there’s no clashes but people are still afraid and don’t know what will come next,” he said. “People are buying food items just to prepare for any worst situation. We don’t know what will come next . . . I’m really concerned about the lives of civilians and the scale of human rights violations against the civilians, violation of humanitarian laws by both sides.” – Guardian