Yemeni president accuses Houthis of coup attempt

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Yemeni security forces supporting Houthi anti-government protesters gesture during a funeral procession and an anti-government protest in Sanaa on September 12, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Mohammed Huwais)

By: Ahmed al-Zarqa

Published Saturday, September 20, 2014

Thursday was a pivotal night in the history of the Yemeni crisis. Sanaa fell into the hands of the Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah (supporters of God) more than a month after they entered the city peacefully. The Houthis were able to control the north of the capital, the international airport and the air base. They also gained control of all the military and security posts along the northern entrance to the city.

Sanaa – It is the beginning of a new phase marking a fundamental change in Yemen, in terms of the balance of power, the internal rules of engagement and the regional alliances in that part of the world. Sanaa is finally in the hands of the Houthis. This development came as a culmination of a long-term tactic adopted by the Houthis, who waged six wars with the Yemeni authorities before entering Sanaa peacefully with a set of demands and settling in the capital until the other side crossed certain “red lines.”

The reaction of the Yemeni regime was as fiery as the event itself. Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi described what happened as a “coup attempt” while the Republican Guard were battling the Houthis only hundreds of meters away from the president’s house. Hadi apparently has not realized yet that the goal of the Houthis is not to take power because they don’t want to repeat the experience of the Brotherhood. They want to become an influential party in the internal Yemeni system until no government can rule without their consent. The rest is details that have more to do with certain regional conflicts.

This coincided with the failure of the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, yesterday in convincing the leader of Ansar Allah, Abdel Malik al-Houthi, to sign a peace agreement with the Yemeni government.

A source close to the mediation committee told the German news agency, Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA), that Houthi refused to sign the agreement but authorized his office director and member of the political bureau of Ansar Allah group, Mohammed al-Bakhiti, to sign it. Bakhiti told DPA that negotiations are ongoing. There has been no agreement on any step but “we cannot say the agreement has definitively failed either.”

Clashes kill 40

All day yesterday, armed clashes continued in Thalatheen Street, Siteen Street, Shamlan district, the area surrounding the government-run TV building, the headquarters of the First Armored Division camp and Iman University. Presidential guards blocked the main bridge connecting Siteen Street to Mathbah after it was destroyed by a shell. The bridge is not far at all from President Hadi’s home. Armed clashes also came close to General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar’s home in the Mathbah area.

Yesterday evening, Houthi rebels renewed their shelling of the government-run TV station after they had shelled it Thursday evening. The army’s Fourth Brigade, charged with protecting the radio and TV stations, responded heavily to the source of fire.

Yemeni TV reported that the shelling targeted the power lines causing a power outage in the TV building, pointing out that the station is working on a small generator to continue broadcasting. A statement indicated there was significant damage to the TV station’s building and equipment, saying images of the damage will be broadcast in upcoming news bulletins.

Residents of Thalateen Street and al-Khaneq in the Shamlan district appealed to the Red Cross to enter the area and pick up some of the corpses lying around as the number of casualties reached 40. They asked both sides of the conflict, the army and the Houthis, to allow a humanitarian grace period so people could either leave or stock up on food supplies.

According to the news, a number of people, including children, were killed in the residential neighborhoods adjacent to the northwestern Siteen Street as a result of the shelling between both sides. The Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority announced late Thursday evening that Arab and foreign airline companies decided to suspend their flights to Sanaa. It pointed out that the duration of the suspension was set at 24 hours in light of the developments in the capital.

Immediately, the Supreme Security Committee headed by the Yemeni president, called on the Houthi rebels to withdraw from the army and security posts they seized and to show commitment to law and order, otherwise army forces will exercise their duty to protect citizens and public peace and to take deterrent measures against Houthi fighters.

Ansar Allah said through its official spokesperson, Mohammed Abdel Salam, that the developments in some areas in Sanaa are “meant to protect peaceful protestors, ensure that the situation does not slip out of hand and that the bloody incidents on the Airport Street and in the vicinity of the cabinet building are not repeated and to deter ISIS-style takfiri groups that were brought in by certain centers of power to create chaos, undermine people’s faith in the victory of their revolution and divert this revolution from its just goals.”

For the first time since the Houthi military escalation around the capital and in its northwestern suburb, President Hadi broke his silence accusing the rebels of a coup attempt to overthrow the government. He said, during a meeting with the ambassadors of the 10 countries that sponsored the Gulf initiative, that Houthi fighters are escalating militarily in the capital and its suburbs to blow up the situation. They targeted a number of security and military installations and tried to storm the government-run TV building. Hadi pointed out that “what happened proves that the slogans which the Houthis initially raised calling for popular demands were nothing but a smokescreen. Today, the truth about their hidden intentions was revealed.” He added: “These forces want to blow up the situation and this is what we tried to avoid time and again because we realized the risks and economic repercussions for the country and the deep impact on social peace.”

Bakhiti told Al-Akhbar that there are no new developments in the negotiations between Ansar Allah and the UN special envoy to Yemen Benomar. He stressed: “It seems we have not reached a final agreement yet.”

Commenting on the Houthi’s military escalation in Sanaa, Bakhiti said that the demands of the group were clear and out in the open. Besides, we declared that “killing protesters is a red line. But the government with its stupidity did not respond to these demands.” He added that what is happening now is fighting between the Muslim Brotherhood and the bloody terrorist groups affiliated with it on one hand and Ansar Allah on the other. He pointed out that the fighting in the Shamlan district “broke out after members of al-Islah Party stormed more than 30 houses in Shamlan and arrested their owners under the pretext that they are spying for us.”

In response to Hadi’s speech, Bakhiti accused parties within the government of trying to derail the negotiations as the presidency has failed to respond to the people’s demands.

In his view, the president’s decision to change two members of the negotiations committee, Dr. Abdel Karim al-Eryani and Abdel Qader Hilal, after reaching a final agreement to end the crisis is evidence of the growing influence and impact of the camp around President Hadi impeding a political settlement. After three days of talks held between the UN special envoy and Houthi in northern Yemen’s Saada province, Benomar returned to Sanaa without signing an agreement to end the crisis.

Benomar expressed his deep regret for the deterioration of the situation in Sanaa to the point of using weapons as efforts are ongoing to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis. He stressed the need to stop all acts of violence immediately and for everyone to act wisely.

Benomar said upon his return to Sanaa from Saada province yesterday evening that talks were conducted with Houthi in the past couple of days. The first round lasted three hours on Wednesday and the second round on Thursday lasted about seven hours until the late hour of the night.

He added: “We tried to bridge the gap between all the parties and we agreed on a host of issues that could create a foundation for an agreement based on the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference. He called for an immediate end to all acts of violence, hoping that all the parties would act wisely in a way that would serve the country’s higher interests.

The National Alignment urges a call to arms

The National Alignment body in Yemen asked President Hadi to “declare a call to arms and open the door to recruitment to protect Sanna.”

The body called in a statement yesterday on the Yemeni president to “exercise his constitutional and legal responsibility to protect citizens and their private and public property.” They asked him to “quickly support the military forces by declaring a call to arms, opening voluntary recruitment to protect the capital Sanaa and its residents, lift the armed siege of the capital and end the public carrying of arms and everything that disturbs citizens’ public tranquility.”

The statement stressed the need to “extend national authority and sovereignty on all Yemeni soil, especially in the provinces of Saada and Omran al-Jawf in the north.” The statement also called for “bringing the displaced and the refugees back to their homes and compensating them fairly for the damages they sustained, implementing the National Dialogue Conference outcomes, announcing a timetable for implementing these outcomes and forming a national unity government based on standards of competence and integrity.”

(Anadolu Agency)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


I enjoy reading your newspaper but when it comes to the current situation in Yemen, I am quite disappointed. Might as well read Sharq Al Awasat, FT, or even NYT. Your reporters are probably Yemenis who are from the Sanaa Intelligentsia if one can consider them that.
I am supporting AA in their drive to get rid of the corrupt regime.
Your reporters keep accusing AA of hidden agenda similar to the anti Hizb Allah in Lebanon.
In both countries the Westernized , and at the beginning the leftists political parties looked down on HA and AA as rural ,uncouth and lack the city sophistication. But without a question, listening to the leadership of both groups and to their opponents one can come up with the following:
1- HA and AA leadership always portray their cause with rational, logic and calm .
2- their opponents are always irrational , hysteric and present false information.
3- HA and AA make their moves and know exactly their next move , it is like playing chess.
4- their opponents and most of media outlets and in case of yemen I have to include your newspaper they throw accusations and feed up on the hate frenzy and hoping that both groups will just fade away and vanish. Their approach is like throwing dice and hoping for Dishshah.
AA will prevail because they stood up for the hungry , disrespected , ignored and marginalized people of Yemen.

It's fun and exciting to Google "Yemen Shia" or "Yemen Houthi" and find Wikipedia articles with various estimates of the demographic proportions of Sunni and Shia. In five minutes I saw estimates from 65-35 to 50-50.
What do you think: is this one more country where the Shias have been denied legal existence in the hope (some lawyer's hope, some lawyer trained in the US or UK) that they would just shrivel up and blow away?
Democracy must be God's will for people: look how stubborn God makes us when someone, to paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, kicks us and then says, "Sorry, I didn't mean to trip over you." Holmes said, "Even a dog knows the difference."

The Houthis are Shias supported by Iran, the Yemeni government is Sunni Moslem Brotherhood supported by Qatar.
Are we seeing a split between Iran and Qatar or is it just a balancing game to force a coalition Shia-MB in power in Yemen and therefore kick out Saudi Arabia from any role in Yemen?
Is it the price Saudis will have to pay to Iran for their collaboration with the USA in funding and training Syrian rebels to topple the present Syrian government.
Is there a Qatar-Iran plan to implement a similar Alawite-MB in Syria once ISIS and other Salafists groups have been crushed?

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