Islah Party Urges Houthis to Release Arrested Members

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A group of Yemenis shout slogans during a demonstration in support of the Houthis at Zubairi Street in Sanaa, Yemen on February 27, 2015. Anadolu/Mohammed Hamoud.

Published Monday, March 2, 2015

Updated 6:10 pm (GMT+2): The Yemeni Islamist al-Islah party on Monday called on the Houthi movement to release four of its leading members who were abducted in the capital Sanaa by the group a day earlier.

In a statement, Islah denounced the Houthi kidnapping of members Habib al-Oreiqi, Ali al-Hamda, Mohammed Sabry and Anwar al-Humairi.

The party urged "the Houthi militia to immediately release the abducted members," and held the movement responsible for their safety.

Islah party leaders condemned the kidnapping, stating it only mirrored an aggressive attitude that violates all forms of partnership and coexistence, according to Akhbar al-Yemen newspaper, which is not affiliated with Al-Akhbar English.

“This suggests that the Houthis wish to get rid of the February 11 Revolution, its youth, and everything related to it as the four hostages are eminent leaders of the revolution," the party statement added, referring to the 2012 uprising which overthrew autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh.

On Sunday, an Islah party source told Anadolu news agency that Houthi militants besieged the party's headquarters in Sanaa and abducted Oreiqi.

Houthi leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi has also recently accused the party of colluding with al-Qaeda in Yemen.

The Houthis, who have long clashed with central authorities, descended from their power base in northern Yemen to seize Sanaa in September.

After their attempts to expand into southern and central Yemen were checked by fierce resistance from al-Qaeda and from tribesmen, the militia moved to take power this month in what Yemen's Gulf neighbors branded a coup.

On February 6, the Houthis dissolved the parliament and announced a “constitutional declaration.” According to the new declaration, a Houthi leading figure headed the “Supreme Revolutionary Committee,” which has had de facto power in the country.

Yemen has fallen into turmoil since a 2012 uprising forced out autocratic president Saleh, who had been in power for 33 years, after a year of unrest. Following Saleh’s overthrow, the Houthis, al-Qaeda, separatists from the former independent South Yemen, and tribesmen have been fighting each other to gain power and territory in the fragile state.

Abducted Saudi diplomat freed

Meanwhile, a Saudi diplomat returned to Riyadh on Monday after being released by kidnappers in Yemen where he spent three years as a hostage, the kingdom's Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by state media.

Abdullah al-Khaledi, Saudi consul in Aden, was seized in March 2012 and later appeared as a hostage in videos released by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) calling on Riyadh to do more to free him.

The Interior Ministry did not say in its brief statement how Khaledi came to be released, except that it was a result of "intensive efforts" made by the kingdom's intelligence agency.

Saudi Arabia, Yemen's most powerful neighbor, fears that growing instability there might give more space for AQAP to operate and launch more cross-border operations.

Fresh US drone strike kills 3 in South Yemen

Meanwhile, an overnight drone strike killed three alleged al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, a country where the United States is the only power operating unmanned aircrafts, a tribal source told AFP on Monday.

The late Sunday strike in the Markha district of the southern province of Shabwa also wounded another three people.

It was the second drone strike in the province in as many days. On Saturday, a drone strike on a vehicle killed three alleged militants in the village of Bijan.

Despite the turmoil and political crisis in Yemen, US President Barack Obama vowed on January 25 not to let up in the American campaign against jihadists in the strife-torn Arabian Peninsula country.

Obama ruled out US troop deployment in Yemen but said Washington would continue "to go after high value targets inside Yemen," admitting however that this was "a long, arduous process."

The Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is seen by the United States as the deadliest branch of the global extremist network.

Critics of US drone strikes have denounced the impact the attacks have had on Yemeni civilians, who have been killed or seen their homes destroyed.

The United States counts any male of military age killed in drone strikes as “militants,” regardless of their actual involvement with al-Qaeda.

(AFP, Anadolu, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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