Security slips in Yemen after Republican Guards withdraw to Sana'a

Mohammed bin Sallam


SANA'A, Mar. 30 - A number of governorates witnessed grave lapses in security that could be tantamount to a revolt against the central government in Sana'a.

The security situation has deteriorated since several battalions that belong to the Republican Guard were withdrawn from their camps in those governorates. This was in accordance with orders from the supreme commander-in-chief (the president) in case of emergency, and to fend off any attempted coup against the regime.

In Sa'ada, Houthi-armed militias last week seized a number of offices and hotels belonging to Sheik Othman Mujalli, an MP and supporter of the ruling party. The fighters forced Mujalli out of Sa'ada governorate.

In a separate incident, armed tribal groups in cooperation with the Houthis took over Sa'ada City and all districts, and handed over command to Sheik Faris Manna'a, a known arms dealer. The governor, Mr. Taha Abdullah Hajer, has fled to Sana'a.

According to tribal sources, Houthi forces are now working to establish security and stability in Sa'ada. They have replaced security and army checkpoints with their own as a means to ease the movement of people and preserve order. They have also mobilized patrols inside the city and other important areas.

In Al-Jawf governorate, sources said that a JMP-supported revolt against the government has caused fighting between pro- and anti-government tribes in the governorate resulting in the death of 40, and the injury of tens over the few past days.

The same sources said that clashes erupted mid last week when 'thugs' working for the ruling party opened fire at peaceful demonstrators who supported the youth revolution. The incident took place in front of administrative buildings in Al-Jawf city.

A National Hadramout Council (NHC) was announced on Wed. 23rd March in Hadramout. It aims to "ensure the security of the governorate and its people against any repercussions that may undermine social peace or pose a threat to people's lives, families, properties and social harmony." It has been established in view of the hard times suffered by Yemen in general, and Hadramout in particular.

The council spokesman (and also chairman of the RAY party office in Hadramout), Mr. Ali Al-Kathiri, told that all political and religious sides had met and agreed to form the NHC. He said that Mr. Abdullah Ba Haroun was elected as chairman of the council, and Mr. Muhsen Ba Surrah of the Islah party as deputy chairman.

Al-Kathiri said that the NHC's tasks included ensuring security against any conflicts or seditions in the governorate in case the regime collapsed. It would assure people's safety, mobilize the people, and unite their views to face up to any attempt to unsettle the situation in Hadramout.

As for the current situation in Hadramout, Al-Kathiri said that both the central security service and the police force had withdrawn to be replaced by the army. He confirmed that the military camp has set siege to the Republican Palace after they had announced their loyalty to army commander Ali Muhsen Al-Ahmar, who has disassociated himself from President Saleh.

Mr. Muhsen Bin Fareed, Secretary-General of the RAY party told Al-Jazeera channel that senior officials in Sana'a had called members of the NHC asking them to drop any initiatives that may lead to a lightening of the atmosphere in the governorate.

Mr. Salim Yaslam, secretary of the local council of Maifa district, Shabwa, said to that the central security forces had left the district. However, a security source said to the same website that a number of central security camps had surrendered their weapons to tribes from the area to avoid confrontations with those tribes who had blockaded security camps.

Yaslam added that tribesmen had taken the security personnel along with their weapons to Hadramout. He disclosed that public committees have been set up to "protect the area," but denied any allegations of plundering arsenals or patrol vehicles.

Other public committees were set up in the governorate capital by people of the town and the tribes of Khalifa and A'al Sulaiman, to stand up to any acts of chaos or sabotage.

Local sources said that tribesmen had taken over seven central security sites in a number of districts in Shabwa governorate. Shabwa consists of 17 districts, including four where important security sites were located.

In Louder, Abyan governorate, well-informed sources said that the central security site in the town was completely looted last Friday by armed men. Some of the site's equipment were given to dignitaries of the Al-Mayaser tribes after the latter came to the rescue when many soldiers fled the scene.

Sources from the area said that the tribes' chieftains reassured the camp commander, who is from the Murad tribe in Marib, that they would support him after he and his remaining men declared their support for the youth revolution.

Chieftains also announced that they would protect soldiers against threats from Al-Qaeda that had previously controlled access points to the town and surrounding checkpoints. Al-Qaeda had taken control of surrounding areas on Tuesday 22nd March and had distributed circulars announcing Louder, Moudia and Al-Wadi'a as an Islamic emirate.

Media sources in the same governorate said that seven people described as Al-Qaeda were killed in an attack against a security checkpoint in Louder. The sources said that a violent clash broke out at around 1:00 am on Saturday between Al-Qaeda members and a security checkpoint in the Amain area in Louder. Seven attackers were killed and their vehicle and a motorbike were burned, but the number of casualties on the security side were not confirmed.

The so-called 'Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula' announced Abyan governorate as one Islamic emirate on Tuesday 22nd March. The announcement came after Al-Qaeda militias seized the presidential palace, radio station and an ammunition factory in Abyan. A statement broadcasted by Al-Qaeda on local radio called upon women to "stay home and go out only when it is extremely necessary." The statement added that women going shopping for necessary supplies should be accompanied by a male relative and carry identification such as personal and family cards or passports.