Tuesday,14 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013
Tuesday,14 August, 2018
Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Yemen’s perilous talks

Assassination attempts put the prospects for the success of the national dialogue in doubt, says Nasser Arrabyee

Al-Ahram Weekly

At least four people were killed in three assassination attempts in two days by conflicting tribal and political groups involved in Yemen’s dialogue. The targets of the assassinations were tribal leaders from the south and northern province of Saada, where the biggest challenges facing dialogue exist.

Despite the fact that 60,000 soldiers were deployed to secure the 565-member dialogue conference, the first assassination happened at one of the military check points nearby the place of dialogue in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

When the car of the tribal leader, Abdel-Wahed Abu Ras, was told to stop for checking, armed tribesmen wearing military uniforms were waiting to kill their political and ideological opponent Abu Ras. They fired at the car killing three bodyguards of Abu Ras who survived only because he was not in the car. The disguised tribesmen escaped quickly as the soldiers of the check point were busy helping the victims.

The tribal leader, Abu Ras, originally from Al-Jawf province at the border of Saada, is one of the prominent representatives of Al-Houthi Shia rebels (Al-Houthis have 35 representatives out of 565 who represent all groups).

Al-Jawf province witnessed and still witnesses clashes and tensions between Al-Houthi supporters and the Sunni Islah Party.

Immediately after the assassination attempt of Abu Ras, Al-Houthi group threatened to withdraw from dialogue if the killers are not arrested and put on trial. Al-Houthi accused military and tribal forces of doing their best to foil the dialogue in clear reference to Islah Islamists who are direct connected to the rebel General Ali Mohsen and Al-Ahmar tribal leaders who led six wars against Al-Houthi from 2004 to 2010.

The assassins were tribesmen loyal to the tribal leader Barash from Al-Jawf province. Barash, a Sunni Islamist leader, is accusing Al-Houthi and his supporters from Al-Jawf of killing relatives and destroying houses and looting properties while trying to expand Shia influence in the neighbouring province of Al-Jawf.

The second assassination happened in a tunnel close to the Palace of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, which is in one of the most security tightened areas in the capital Sanaa.

The southern tribal leader Abdallah Al-Fadhli along with his armed bodyguards were driving their car in the tunnel of Aser, when gunmen attacked them. The tribal leader Al-Fadhli, who is also head of State Authority of Lands and Real Estates, was seriously injured and one of his bodyguards was killed.

On the same day, the tribal leader Suleiman bin Ali from the northern province of Saada survived an assassination attempt when his car exploded immediately after he left it to go shopping in the northern part of Sanaa. The car was destroyed but there were no casualties.

After these assassinations, tribal leaders found a good chance to use their heavily armed body guards even in the place of dialogue. The most famous tribal leaders like Al-Ahmar and Shayif, the symbols of the most influential two tribes of Yemen, the Hashed and Bakil, come with their armed convoys to a square close to the dialogue place and stop convoys there. One armoured car takes Sadek Al-Ahmar, for instance, to the dialogue room in the hotel of Mövenpick and all other cars with tens of armed tribesmen wait outside the hotel.

After the assassination attempts, Al-Ahmar tried to get in the hotel with three armed bodyguards. Most of the dialogue members blamed him and asked him to apologise for what happened. “From tomorrow, I will wear a suit with tie, and will speak English and French if this will please you,” said Al-Ahmar ironically.

There is increasing concern after these assassinations that dialogue may fail or stop.

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