Yemeni police killed seven militants from the Shiite Houthi rebellion on September 9, when they open fired on hundredsof demonstrators trying to storm the government headquarters in Sana’a, capitalof Yemen. According to the organizers of the protest march, there were dozensof wounded.
The Houthis are a Shia group that takes its name fromHussein Badreddin al-Houthi, their former commander.
The incident came just hours after the Houthi leader calledon supporters to escalate their anti-government protests by taking to theTagyeer Square in Sana’a, as analysts warned that the country is on the brinkof more serious violence than seen during uprisings in 2011.
Tensions had increased in the streets of Sanaa in past days,as Houthi rebels blockedone of the main roads to the city’s international airport. The protest cameafter clashes between Houthi rebels and Sunni tribesmen in the country’s northkilled more than 70 people in the past three days, security officials andtribal leaders said on Sunday.
For weeks the Houthi rebellion, launched on August18, had camped with thousands of militants in and around the capital to demandthe resignation of the government they consider corrupt. The eventorganized in Change Square, the epicenter of protests since 2011, saw themobilization of riot police who used tear gas and water cannons to repeldemonstrators. Yemeni Interior Ministry sources have defended the use ofsecurity forces against the assault on the office of the prime minister.
In a televised speech carried on the Houthi’s Al-Massira TVchannel, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi reiteratedthe group’s demands, including the removal of Prime Minister MohammedBasindawa’s government, repeal of an earlier government decision to reduce fuelsubsidies, and application of recommendations of the national dialogue to fightcorruption and open the cabinet to other parties.
In his televisedstatement, Al-Houthi went on to threaten “strategic, majorescalatory” steps by his group if their demands were not fulfilled byPresident Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
Such steps, he said, would be coordinated with other groupsand would go beyond Sanaa to other cities in the country. He did not elaborate.
The Shiite rebels had managed two days ago to block theMinistry of Electricity and Telecommunications, preventing officials from travelingto the workplace. All attempts at mediation carried out by President Abd RabboMansour Hadi with the rebel bastion, including his offer to sack the governmentand bring the Houthis in to take part in a new national unity cabinet, had producednoresults. The Houthis spurned the overture and vowed to further escalate theirprotests.
The Houthis, who control the region of Saada, are suspectedof seeking to expand their area of influence in a future federal state comprisingsix provinces. In the north of the country the Shiites hold a majority over theSunnis, who predominate on a national scale.
The InternationalCrisis Group (ICG) has warned of “a conflict at least as grave as thatof 2011” if tensions should continue to rise and negotiation efforts betweenthe Houthis and Hadi falter. In 2011, two parts of the army, one supportingSaleh and the other the uprising, faced off in the capital.