Houthi-Salafi confrontations renewed in Sa’ada

Published on 23 April 2012 in News
Mohammed bin Sallam (author)

Mohammed bin Sallam

Armed men of the Houthis have thier own security checkpoints throughout Sa’ada. They killed on Saturday four Salafi students at one of their checkpoints in Sa’ada city.

Armed men of the Houthis have thier own security checkpoints throughout Sa’ada. They killed on Saturday four Salafi students at one of their checkpoints in Sa’ada city.

SA’ADA, April 22 — Ten people were killed and two others wounded in bloody confrontations took place on Saturday between Houthi armed men and four students of Dar Al-Hadeeth Salafi School in the Dammaj area of Sa’ada.

The Salafis claimed that four of them were killed, along with six Houthis killed and two wounded, which the Houthis denied.

“Four students of Dar Al-Hadeeth School were stopped by the Houthis at checkpoint belong to the Houthis, approximately 500 meters away from the house of Faris Mana’a, the governor of Sa’ada, in Rahban area in Sa’ada city,” according to a prominent Salafi leader in Dar Al-Hadeeth, requesting anonymity.

“The four students were on their way to Sa’ada’s court to sign a marriage contract involving Abdulnoor Al-Baidani, a Salafi student at Dar al-Hadeeth, who was married recently to a girl in Dammaj [a hometown for 25,000 Salafis in Sada], “ he said.

“The Houthi armed men tried to take the students’ rifles but they refused. So the Houthis shot at them. Though the students escaped to Sheikh Shwait’s house, located nearby, no one helped them,” he added.

“A Houthi-Salafi  agreement led by Sheikh Hussein Al-Ahmar stated that no one would stops students from Dar Al-Hadeeth, check them, disturb them or take their guns, wherever they are,” he said.

The Salafi leader in Dammaj accused the Houthis of breaking the truce agreement.

“However, the Houthis broke this agreement and took the students’ guns. They collected 500 armed men of their supporters quickly to prevent any mediation to release the students before being killed,” the sheikh continued.

“We didn’t retaliate but instead we conveyed the issue to Sheikh Al-Ahmar and several other sheikhs, who asked us not to fight the Houthis and promised to arbitrate the matter,” he said.

“The sheikhs will solve the matter according to Yemeni tribal customs. They demanded that we send the guns, according to Yemeni tribal traditions where both aggrieved parties have to send guns to the sheikhs as a sign of good will. They [the guns] are given back to each party after solving the problem,” the sheikh concluded.

“Four of our men, who were protecting the Rahban area in Sa’ada, were killed and two others wounded,” Sheikh Saleh Habra, a leader of the Houthis, told the Yemen Times.

Habra for his part accused the Salafis in Dammaj of provoking the conflict again.

“Though we followed the terms of the agreement headed by Sheikh Hussein Al-Ahmar between us and people in the Dammaj area, some Salafis are still trying to bring us into conflict with them,” he said.

The sectrain battles which erupted in November 2011 and continued until late December was ceased in line with truce agreement brokered by Sheikh, Hussein Al-Ahmar, an influential tribal leader in Amran, south Sa’ada.       

“What is going on in the Dammaj area is a mere sectarian conflict and the continuing of such conflicts will cause a sectarian war nationwide, reported China’s Xinhua News Agency, by way of Yemeni researchers.

There are mutual accusations between Houthis and Salafi leaders of Dammaj of instigating sectarian violence in Sa’ada governorate.

Dar Al-Hadeeth  Quranic school in Dammaj was established in the 1980s by the religious leader Sheikh Moqbel Al-Wadie and is considered the biggest Salafi school in Yemen.

Now Sheikh Yahia Al-Hajoori is the head of Dar Al-Hadeeth. There are an estimated 7,000 students in Dar Al-Hadeeth of different nationalities and 2,500 families live around the school.

The Houthis are known for their relationship to Zaydism. Their former leader, Houssein Al-Houthi, was killed in 2004 during the first round of the war between the Houthis and the Yemeni army. They have been through six wars with the central government, the last one ending in 2010.

The Houthis accuse Dar Al-Hadeeth’s leaders of opposing Yemen’s youth revolution.

According to Mohammed Abdulsalam, the Houthis’ spokesman, there was no conflict between the Houthis and other religious groups prior to the Salafis creating conflict in Sa’ada governorate.

Yet, according to one of the Salafi leaders in Dar Al-Hadeeth school, what is happening in Sa’ada is a result of the grudge the Houthis bear the Salafis, enforced by their Shiite views along with their political ambitions to rule the country.