Saturday, 10 July 2010

Truce under threat amid fears of new war in northern Yemen

Source :AFP


SANAA — Almost five months after a ceasefire brought an end to fighting between Shiite northern rebels and Yemeni forces, clashes between the renegades and tribes loyal to the government are fuelling fears the violence will reignite.

The situation remains tense despite a complementary agreement reached late June to revive the peace accord, after which dozens of Huthi rebel prisoners were moved to a jail in Saada in an apparent step towards freedom.

Huthi rebels and the Sanaa government increasingly accuse each other of failing to honour their respective commitments to the ceasefire agreement, which took effect on February 12.

Sanaa and its loyal tribes in the restive region of Saada have charged that the Zaidi Shiite rebels did not evacuate their positions in the rugged mountains and are continually violating the truce in other ways.

The rebels, meanwhile, have accused the government of flouting the accord by failing to release hundreds of prisoners and by ignoring a commitment to work on reconstructing the city of Saada.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh had announced on May 21 a general amnesty, emcompassing Zaidi rebels and southern separatists.

The Huthi rebels spokesman, Mohammed Abdul Salam, claimed that out of a thousand comrades detained by the government during the war in Saada only a few hundred were released after the amnesty.

The authorities "have not released the detainees despite the president's amnesty" and have not been in favour of making progress "on other issues such as the case of vanished people, reconstruction, compensation, the stop of arrest campaigns and the arming of militias," he said in a statement, in an apparent reference to the tribes.

The complementary agreement was reached between the two parties late June. It stipulated that all Huthi prisoners would be moved to Saada in preparation for release.

At the same time, the rebels are to return the civil and military equipment confiscated during the war, and reach reconciliation with tribes.

A source close to the rebels told AFP that dozens of Huthi detainees were transferred Tuesday from the capital to Saada in three helicopters, as the first step towards implementing the new accord.

However, the leadership of the rebels says hundreds more remain in detention.

And although the prisoners were transferred to a jail in Saada, there was no indication of their imminent release.

Sanaa has its own list of complaints against the rebels.

"The Huthis have not evacuated their positions in the mountains and have not adhered to the six clauses accepted by (their leader) Abdulmalik al-Huthi," said Saada MP Sheikh Faez al-Awjari.

"The situation has not improved towards achieving peace in Saada. On the contrary, it is heading towards escalation and violence," added Awjari, who is close to the government.

He accused the rebels of fighting tribes "who refuse to allow them into their areas."

In the past few months, the Huthis have sporadically clashed with the Majli, Awjari and Beni Awir tribes, which are loyal to the government.

These clashes led many times to the blocking of the main road linking Saada with the capital.

Huthis insist that claims of ceasefire violations on their part are "unfounded."

"The fact that they accuse us of violating (the truce) stems from unfounded allegations aimed to hinder the release of the detainees and cover aggressive intentions," a rebel military chief told AFP.

The sixth war between the army and the Huthi rebels, who complain of political, social and religious marginalisation, had erupted on August 11. Thousands have been killed in the conflict that began in 2004.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia became embroiled in the military fight in November after it accused the rebels of infiltrating its borders, killing one guard and occupying two villages.

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